First's StreetCar to hit the road next year

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The Independent Online

FirstGroup announced yesterday what it believes is a radical concept in public transport - the "StreetCar".

FirstGroup announced yesterday what it believes is a radical concept in public transport - the "StreetCar".

The company says the new articulated vehicle, which will carry passengers for the first time in Yorkshire next year, is neither bus nor tram but it will combine the best features of both. It will also have an array of state-of-the-art electronics including a mechanism capable of turning red traffic lights to green.

It is an attempt to persuade motorists who are reluctant to forsake their cars for buses to try public transport.

Basically the vehicles are "bendy buses" with a tram-like feature such as a secure "cockpit" for the driver and internal and external styling which will make it look more like a modern tram. There will also be more "personal space" for users, a spokesman said.

The new vehicles are scheduled to go on trial next year on three pilot routes in Leeds, Sheffield and York. The company claims other local authorities have shown an interest in the projects. FirstGroup hopes that on part of the routes the StreetCars will run on dedicated lanes, which would enhance their attractiveness to potential passengers.

The routes are still being planned and the first vehicle is in production at a Wright Group plant. The StreetCars have been designed with the help of FirstGroup's employees including drivers and cleaners, a spokesman said.

The articulated vehicles will be equipped with screens giving "real time" information to passengers about where they are on the route and details about the next stop. A central control will receive information on the exact location of the vehicle using a global positioning system so the reliability of the service can be maintained. A spokesman for FirstGroup said passengers would not have to pay "premium" fares for using the service.