The PA-class buses finally hit the streets on the 30th April 2021, quite a number of months after their arrival in the country and their official launch on the 10th December 2020. There were a number of teething issues that slowed down their entry into service, not unusual for a new addition to the fleet, and no doubt exacerbated by the level-5 restrictions enforced during the Covid pandemic. The 140, operated by Broadstone depot, was the first route to see them in service, but many more are pending delivery having been in store in Ardee. It will be interesting to see how fast this new class gets into service, one thinks they may become the norm much quicker than other classes have.
The PA Class are Alexander Dennis Enviro400ER (extended range) buses and can run for up to 3 miles in fully electric mode, having a 32kWh capacity battery (to put in context this is 3000 times more than an IPhone10). The buses are plug in hybrids, with garages across the city being equipped with overnight chargers. It would be ideal if these buses could go into battery operation in the heart of the city, with some form of GPS enablement (something I've not read about), but with a good run in from the outer termini, the batteries may well see more use in the stop-start city locations by design in any case.
There are 74 buses coming in this first batch of PAs, spread around a number of depots. A further 26, making up the batch of 100, have gone to Bus Eireann for operation in Galway city. For Dublin bus, PA1-20 will be allocated to Broadstone Garage for use on Route 140, PA21-41 will be based in Harristown for Route 4, PA42-58 will go to Phibsboro for Route 122, while PA59-74 are destined for Summerhill to operate Route 123. However, another significant order of 180 (not just to Dublin Bus, but distributed also to other TFI services) is in the works, and due for delivery in 2021. This forms part of tenders and plans that would see a significant acceleration of lower-emission vehicles entering the fleet.
Of note in the PA-class is the full rear scroll, which is new in this type, and the formal return to white scrolls in general. The last fleet type to have full scrolls with destination on the rear was the RA-class of the 1960s, with further double deckers just having a rear number. The K-type buses built in the 1980s actually had no display on the rear at all, a CIE manager being noted as saying no-one wants to know what bus they've missed. The comment must have been somewhat outrageous even for its day, given how many buses people get on having seen just the rear number display. So the full rear scroll is a welcome return.
The PAs finally entered service in Harristown on the 23rd June 2021 with PA26, PA27, PA28 and PA30 being pressed into service for the evning peak on Route 4. Like with Broadstone for the 140, the entry into service has been steady but not too quick, with only about half in service. Given that at least PA152 has been built, it seems that the PAs will enter service at the similar pace to other bus types, the rush to build them seemingly being on Alexander's side rather than the NTA/Dublin Bus. In addition to the few that entered service on the first day, PA 21 (entered service on the 6th July), PA22 (28th June), PA23 (7th July), PA29 (6th July), PA35 (10th July) and PA39 (7th July) have now all entered service, and PA25 may have also operated briefly in service.
Unlike other new buses that have entered service in Harristown, these buses have not strayed much from Route 4. With many routes transferring drivers in Harristown, new buses can appear on a variety of routes, but the PAs have been quite restricted. One was noted doing a lap on the 83/A. The same has been the case in Broadstone, where one was noted on a morning extra on the 66, a euro on the 25A on an evening peak, and a Saturday helper on Route 15, but all have been very brief appearances. Hopefully with more PAs entering service throughout 2021, we will see them stray from their core routes.
Two months after PAs entered service in Harristown, PAs finally entered service in Phibsboro on Friday the 27th August 2021. Unlike other garages, Phibsboro put quite a number into service on the first day, with a significant number continuing over the weekend. By today (Sunday 29th August), PA44-PA48, PA50-51 have all entered service.
Phibsboro Depot have allocated their PAs to Route 122. The routes chosen for the PAs are cross-city and intend to give more exposure of the types on the city streets. However, thus far the three routes all go through Doyle's Corner given a significant over-supply of PAs at Doyle's Corner. The 123 will buck the trend and not serve Doyle's Corner, and Summerhill have already begun familiarisation with the type.
The final depot to put PAs into service from this first batch was Summerhill, with PA60, PA63 and PA64 entering service on Friday the 17th September 2021. It was not a successful first day, with only PA63 surviving in service into the afternoon, and none making it to the evening peak. None appeared over that weekend, with a few operating each day for the early part of the week, before a signficant amount of PAs entered service on the 22nd. By this weekend (the 25th and 26th September), all boards on the 123 were PA operated.
At this stage, Summerhill have put the majority of their allocation, PA60-PA74 into service, with the only ones yet to do so being PA67, PA68, PA69, PA71 and PA73. Normally, as a big batch of buses completes there would be a significant gap for entry into service of the next batch. However, some of the next batch of Dublin Bus PAs have already been spotted on the streets out of service on what would appear to be testing runs. So one wonders if this page may have a further update in the near term?