NSW buses get extra fire protection after engine blaze

Date: May 21, 2013

A fire safety upgrade of NSW State Transport Authority (STA) buses has been completed more than eight months earlier than originally planned, according to the state government.

Minister for transport Gladys Berejiklian announced on May 16 that Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses throughout the state have been retrofitted with fire suppression units as well as on-board fire alarm systems.

“Safety is paramount when it comes to public transport,” said Ms Berejiklian in a statement.

“The fire suppression units and fire alarms have been installed on all 254 of the relevant Mercedes Benz gas buses, ahead of the schedule, adding another layer of safety for customers.”

The measure is aimed at preventing a recurrence of the kind of incident which happened on an STA Mercedes Benz bus at Hillsdale in July 2011.

At approximately 19:38 on Friday July 29 2011, the bus caught fire and despite efforts by the driver to extinguish the blaze, the vehicle was destroyed.

An investigation by the Office of Transport Safety Investigations (OTSI) subsequently found that the likely cause of the fire was a split hose connection on the bus engine’s turbocharger.

This led to coolant being sprayed onto the engine, which then quickly ignited after the residual ethylene glycol it contained crystallised.

The resulting fire burnt through the rear floor hatch and spread to the bus interior.

Nearly 20 minutes after the fire initially broke out, a connection in the CNG line near the engine failed due to the intense heat and as a result started venting a jet of flame.

Fortunately, the bus was returning to the Port Botany Depot at the time of the incident and there were no passengers aboard.

In its official report, the OTSI said it had found “deficiencies in the training of drivers to handle a vehicle fire”.

“However, it was identified that Network Control personnel could assist in emergencies involving gas powered buses by reminding drivers to shut off fuel supplies, and by forewarning emergency services personnel of any known additional hazards at the fire site,” the report said.

The STA has since replaced the return coolant line and connected hose fitting on all of its Mercedes Benz CNG buses of the same model as the one destroyed.

It has also provided extra training for drivers and Network Control personnel, in addition to the installation of fire suppression units.

It is hoped these measures prevent a fire breaking out again on a CNG bus, and if one does, that injuries and major damage do not occur.

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