Queensland bus manufacturer Bustech has high hopes for the future of its double-decker, eight of which have begun a NSW Government trial in Sydney.

“These buses represent more than a trip down memory lane for transport history buffs…they could well be the way of the future,” says NSW Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian.

“The new double-decker buses are an exciting addition to our public transport fleet and show the NSW Government is prepared to look at new and different ways to improve public transport.”

Gold Coast-based Bustech is the bus manufacturing arm of the Calabro family’s Transit Australia Group which has around 700 buses in service between the Gold Coast and Cairns. These buses operate under the Surfside and Sunbus banners.

Cummins’ presence in the Surfside and Sunbus operations has grown significantly in recent years to the point where the 8.9-litre ISLe5 is now described as “the best engine in the fleet” by Transit Australia Group director Joe Calabro.

“Significantly, the ISLe5 is showing a substantial improvement in fuel economy over our ISC engines while meeting a much stricter emissions standard,” Joe Calabro reveals. “My workshops are also very happy with Cummins’ back-up service which is considered second to none.”

“My workshops are also very happy with Cummins’ back-up service which is considered second to none.”

With close to 100 ISLe5 engines in service and fuel economy, performance, reliability and support rating highly, the 8.9-litre Cummins became an obvious choice for the Bustech doubledecker buses. So what led to the development of the double-decker? “We were asked by TransLink (South East Queensland’s public transport provider) to put some 18-metre articulated ‘bendy’ buses into service,” says Joe Calabro.

“We used to run them and know their inherent problems in city work – their impact on traffic in taking up too much road space, heavy fuel consumption, up and down motion while travelling, troubles around the turntable area, and difficulty reversing.

“So as a team we decided to explore double deckers.”

Bustech found that a twin-steer arrangement was needed to meet Australian axle weight regulations while keeping the same wheelbase and 12.5-metre overall length as a standard bus chassis. “Our double decker is designed around our standard 12.5-metre XDI bus chassis, having the same wheelbase,” Joe Calabro points out.

The first two Bustech double deckers have been operating on the Gold Coast for over two years, and Calabro says the ISLe5 Cummins rated at 340 hp is providing at least a 30% improvement in fuel economy over a European articulated bus.

The ISLe5 achieves Euro 5 emissions compliance through SCR aftertreatment technology which involves dosing urea/AdBlue into the exhaust stream to reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions.

“The double-decker is far superior in every equation to an articulated bus, while providing capacity for 96 seated passengers and 20 standing,” says Joe Calabro.

“We believe we have achieved our key aims of designing and manufacturing a bus that is easy to service and repair, is durable, provides the highest comfort available, and doesn’t require extra driver training.”

The NSW Government trial of double-deck buses, which will continue until 2014, marks a return to a form of passenger transport that was significant in Sydney for many years.

Double-deckers were first put into service in Sydney in the 1920s by private operators and from 1933 by the government. In May 1986 the last double-deck bus was taken out of service.

All up, around 1000 double-deckers were bought by the NSW Government and operated on the streets of Sydney between 1933 and 1986.


Cummins isle5 is a highly rated engine in the Transit Australia Group fleet.


Cummins regional sales manager Michael Mcintosh (left) with the Bustech team, from left: Andrew Chapman, Joe Calabro, Marc Cleave and Grahame Holz.