New buses to be used by Arriva in Malta when it takes over public transport on July 3 were today handed over to the company during a ceremony at the port of Xiamen in China.

The 172 King Long buses will now be shipped to Malta, adding to the two already being used for route testing and driver training.

Arriva managing director Keith Bastow and Transport Minister Austin Gatt attended the event, held by the Xiamen King Long United Automotive Industry Co. Ltd (King Long), the manufacturer of the buses.

When Arriva won the 10-year contract to operate public transport services in Malta and Gozo, it committed to replace a large part of the island’s ageing bus fleet to improve passenger comfort and reduce the environmental impact of transport in Malta.

In January, Arriva announced the signing of the contract for the supply new buses by King Long.

Mr Bastow said at the ceremony that when considering bus suppliers for the Malta contract, it thought of King Long, which in recent years had developed as a bus manufacturer, earning a good reputation for quality, design and customer service within the international bus industry.

King Long will be supplying Arriva with 49 new nine-metre buses and 125 new 12-metre buses.

When Arriva starts operations, 66 per cent of the fleet in Malta will be King Long buses.

The 12-metre buses will mostly operate on man-line services to and from Valletta. The nine-metre buses will be used on feeder services throughout the islands, exploiting their smaller size but still high relative capacity to penetrate the urban centres of towns and villages.

All buses are diesel low-floor providing easy access, and will feature Euro V engines, air conditioning, comfortable seating with adequate legroom, and real time passenger information displays including next scheduled stop announcements.

Dr Gatt said that the ceremony marked a strategic milestone towards the revitalisation and transformation of Malta’s public transport service.

He said he had no doubt that the quality and performance to be offered by the buses was one of the major cornerstones which was expected to lead to a significant increase in patronage over the coming years.

The buses will leave China on Monday and are due in Malta at the beginning of May.

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