After IAA and Innotrans, I spent a few days exploring Berlin and sampling various aspects of its transport system. Late in the final afternoon there, I finally tracked down the prototype VDL Citea double-decker working on the M19 through the heart of what was West Berlin. After a pleasant half hour sitting enjoying coffee and cake as the sun set outside a café in Grunewald, the bus arrived at the neighbouring short working terminal. Like London, Berlin buses wait their departure time away from the first stop.
The 11.4m 97 passenger bus proved itself quite competent, there are a few details that could be improved and a little more headroom would not go amiss but it was the journey itself which was more surprising. Even at rush hour, the shortworking M19 is allowed the regular 32 minutes for the 10.2km journey to Mehringdamm, the timetable for the alternate full service to Grunewald station, a further km away, showing one journey allowed an extra minute! The vehicle’s performance was exhilarating and, despite having read a report that less than 50% of the city’s traffic light priorities for public transport are out of service, good progress was made. The bus lanes, often lane two of three, along Ku’damm, the main shopping street, allowed a good average speed to be maintained. Given our current concerns with congestion, could we learn anything from Berlin?
Riding on other buses in the city, one thing we do not want to learn is what friends described as the old established Berlin art of pulling tight into a stop by using contact with the kerb as a guide, and they are not all Kassel kurbed!