Solaris Trollino Trolleybuses


The history of the "Solaris Bus & Coach" goes back to 1994. On August, 2nd of that year Krzysztof Olszewski opened in Warsaw the trade office of the Neoplan bus maker, named "Neoplan Polska Sp. z o. o." (Neoplan Polska Company Limited). In the next year they delivered just one bus, the first low-floor motorbus in Poland, Neoplan N4020 for the municipal bus transport company MZK in Warsaw.
In September of the same year, Neoplan Polska and MAN won together the first big tender for the city transport company in Poznań. Of all 122 buses, 72 of were Neoplans in 9-, 12- i 15-meter lenghts. The buses were assembled in the plant at Bolechowo-Osiedle close to Poznań, opened on September, 5th, 1996. Next orders were only a question of time and until the end of 1999 altogether 467 Neoplan buses of types N4009, N4010, N4016, N4020 and N4021 as well as of a slightly modernised type K4016 were delivered. All buses were destined for Polish market only.
On September, 4th, 1999 the family of new Solaris Urbino 12, Urbino 15 and Urbino 18 buses was officially presented. The buses were constructed in own construction office whereas the attractive design with characteristic descending line of the windscreen, was created by the German "IFS Design" firm. As a symbol of the new bus the dachshund has been chosen, the image of which at the front of each bus is another mark of Solaris buses.
In December, 1999, the "Neoplan Polska" sold 30 per cent of it's shares to the "Gottlob Auwärter GmbH". It was hoped to help in this way to increase the production possibilities as well as to enter hitherto inaccessible European markets. When however the "Gottlob Auwärter" has been taken over soon by MAN, competitive to Neoplan Polska at that time, and the new Neoman group was formed, it became evident that accomplishment of these goals was not possible and the shares were bought back. Since September, 1st, 2001, the firm has been renamed into "Solaris Bus & Coach Sp. z o. o.".
One year later, on September, 6th 2002, the second generation of Urbino buses was presented, and, another two years later, on September, 4th, 2004, during the 60th International Commercial Vehicles Fair (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung der Nutzfahrzeuge) in Hannover - the third. Ten years later, also in Hannover, the fourth generation of Urbino was presented.
In 2005, the founder of the firm has bought back the shares belonging to one of the banks and regained the full control over it. On July, 1st of that year the firm has been converted into public limited company. The full name from that day is "Solaris Bus & Coach S. A.". Growing number of produced buses caused the necessity of the factory premises to be developed. An important event was inauguration of the new production hall in Bolechowo on April, 4th, 2006. In May, 2009, the 5000th bus made in Bolechowo was received by a customer, and in March, 2014 - the 10000th.
Already the "Neoplan Polska" was trying during 1990's to interest Polish trolleybus companies with it's products. However, they were not interested, although one of them, in Lublin was one of the first users of Neoplan buses as early as from 1996. The company had no money to invest in the low-floor trolleybuses and was satisfied with middle-floor vehicles built upon French Berliet licence dating from early 1970's. Only a handful of trolleybuses were equipped with thyristor or modern transistor control. Very similar was in Gdynia where similar trolleybuses were built with primitive rheostatic controls. In Tychy, there was a serious threat to abandon trolleybuses completely and purchase of new vehicles was not considered.
The situation changed when the Solaris bus family emerged. As the first the trolleybus company in Gdynia decided to buy trolleybus based on Solaris bus body. Traction equipment was assembled by local Trobus firm that in fact was formerly a part of the transport operator and had big experience in construction of trolleybuses.
Trolleybus has been equipped with D.C. power units designed in 1990's at the Electrotechnical Institute (IEL) in Warsaw, produced by the firm Woltan. It had been used earlier in 4 Jelcz trolleybuses, one in Gdynia and three in Lublin.
Presentation of the first Solaris trolleybus took place on March, 11th, 2001. A very accurate and friendly name has been adopted for the new vehicle. TROLLINO has been created by merging the words TROLEJBUS (trolleybus in Polish) and bus family name URBINO.
Scarcely three months later two next Trollinos emerged. In contrary to the two-axle vehicle of Gdynia there were articulated cars, equipped in Budapest with A.C. units of Hungarian Ganz Transelektro Közlekedési Kft and destined for the capital of Latvia - Riga. These were the first trolleybuses with the Ganz developed A.C. traction components and, in fact, the first trolleybuses built by this new firm following the acquisition of the former Ganz-Ansaldo assets in 2000.
During 2001 Trobus built three more trolleybuses for Gdynia. All have been fitted with same D.C. equipment (although with minor modifications). In 2002 only one trolleybus followed, for another Polish operator in Tychy, but shortly afterwards Trobus went bankrupt and in this way, following construction of just 5 vehicles, the first stage of Solaris trolleybus production came to the end.
In the meantime new "maker" of Trollinos emerged. It was the city transport company of Ostrava (DPO) that was at that time the representative of Solaris in the Czech Republic. The DPO trolleybus workshop fitted a D.C. power unit of Alstom into a T12 body. This trolleybus was sold to Opava and a very good opportunity for its introduction on May 3rd, 2002 was the 50th anniversary of trolleybus service in this small city close to Ostrava. Somewhat earlier, during test rides, it visited another Czech town Teplice also to commemorate similar anniversary there.
It deserves a special mention that with the delivery of this trolleybus, the long-term monopoly of Škoda on the Czech market (dating from 1958) has been broken down.
Soon came two next trolleybuses from Ostrava. Both were equipped with A.C. devices of the same maker but bearing already it's new name - Cegelec. Moreover, as far as one of these cars was the standard T12 unit, the other one was built using the T15 body. These both trolleybuses remained in Ostrava where they operate with fleet nos. 3701 and 3601. The latter has the dignity of being the first three-axle 15-meter long trolleybus in the world. It's inauguration took place in Ostrava on March, 15th, 2003.
In 2002, it was started with construction of yet another trolleybus. It was destined for Bucharest and was to be fitted with Romanian Astra electric equipment. However, following involvement of the Irisbus concern in the Romanian bus market, the works on this competitive project has been dropped. The unfinished vehicle stands presumably within Astra premises in awaiting of better times...
By the end of 2002 the first bigger delivery of Solaris trolleybus took place. There were 10 Ganz equipped T12 vehicles for the Estonian capital city of Estonia - Tallinn (nos. 315-324). At the same time, following good experience with two initial vehicles, Ganz Transelektro solicited for a big contract in Riga where a giant tender for 100 articulated and 50 solo trolleybuses was announced. Due to protests of Škoda and prolonged final decision it was eventually cancelled. Ganz succeded finally in the new tender and was to deliver 100 articulated trolleybuses during 2004-2007. The first part of 25 vehicles came to Riga in 2004, two years later as primarily planned.
More succesfull was Ganz in other countries, first of all in Estonia, where five articulated and eight next solo vehicles were delivered in 2003-2004, and in Italy. The city transport operators in Rome and Naples got respectivetely 30 articulated and 10 rigid buses. All were equipped with additional traction batteries that made it possible to run on routes with wireless sections.
With three Trollinos for the operator in Landskrona on Sund the trolleybuses returned to passenger service in Sweden following a 39-years long gap. These vehicles have been fitted with additional batteries, too, but they are used only on the depot rides. Ganz was very succesfull in it's own country as well. The Budapest transport company BKV bought six trolleybuses and in Debrecen in the east of the country, ten electric vehicles with dachshund emerged at first. Five of them were equipped with Diesel auxilliary engines to operate a route with wireless section, whereas all of the Budapest cars were fitted with batteries for emergency use.
Unfortunately at this time Ganz started to struggle with financial problems. They increased during 2005 and in the end only eight vehicles of the second part of the Riga order could be finished and delivered. The remaining 38 bodies (17 for Riga, 10 for Budapest and 11 for Debrecen) were finally bought at the end of 2006 from the bankruptcy trustee of the in the meantime bankrupted Ganz by Škoda Electric. The latter formed a new firm Ganz-Škoda Ltd, (Ganz-Škoda Zrt.), that eventually completed the trolleybuses and delivered to customers. Trolleybuses for Riga were fitted with Škoda electrics. The remaining 50 trolleybuses for Riga have been however never delivered. In a face of the problems of Ganz, bodies of two trolleybuses for Italian city of San Remo, that were also to be completed in Budapest, were sent to Ostrava.
DPO workshops left big numbers of trolleybuses at that time. Demonstration trip of Ostrava's no. 3703 in Swiss cities of Lausanne, Geneve and La- Chaux-de-Fonds in October, 2003, resulted with orders for total of 7 vehicles for the last city, as well as with 10 for Winterthur.
The markets gained by Ganz were not lost with it's demise. Solaris used the chance and presentation rides of the Ostrava-built trolleybuses in Lithuania and Latvia (no. 3601) and in Tallinn (no. 3801) contributed with big orders. 45 three-axle vehicles were sold to the Lithuanian capital in three parts during 2004-2006. Total of 28 trolleybuses, including 14 solo and 14 artics, went to Tallinn. This order was divided into four years from 2007 to 2010. The reputation of the three Baltic countries as good customers of Solaris-made vehicles, was sealed with an order for 42 Trollinos for the fourth and last trolleybus system in this region - in Kaunas. These were delivered during 2006-2007.
The Czech operators did not stay behind. Apart from next trolleybuses delivered to Opava and Ostrava, Solaris succeded in 2006 in order for 5 trolleybuses for the joint operator of Chomutov and Jirkov at the west Bohemia despite the strong competition from Škoda. During 2003-2007 total of 16 power units were fitted to trolleybuses destined for Polish cities Gdynia (14 cars) and Tychy (2 cars).
In 2006, two exceptional trolleybuses were built in the latter city. To minimize the costs two new Solaris T12 bodies were fitted in the workshops of the local trolleybus operator TLT with primitive rheostatic equipment, that was only slighly modernized version of that used in Jelcz PR110E vehicles dating from 1980's. In 2008 they built the third trolleybus in this way.
Untypical is also the history of two trolleybuses made in Ostrava in 2007 that were destined for the Bulgarian capital - Sofia. Following a customer's refusal to take them, they finally found their new homes in Gdynia (no. 3009) or in Opava (no. 99).
In 2007 it came finally to the construction of the first complete trolleybus in Bolechowo works. It was a prototype with the new power unit produced by Poilsh firm Medcom, known hitherto from production of traction units for trains and tramways. In fact it was the second trolleybus built with Medcom; the earlier was a prototype fitted in one of old vehicles in Lublin since a previous year.
The trolleybus painted in then official all-red livery of Lublin city transport operator MPK, was sent to that city for trial use. It served by the way as a forerunner for two other trolleybuses, when, by the end of that year MPK purchased two complete bodies and fitted them with similar units. These two trolleybuses entered service in Lublin on December, 21st, 2007 and from that day Trollinos are to be seen in all trolleybus networks in the country of their origin. The prototype remained in Lublin, too, and until it's purchse in April, 2009, it was in service with temporary fleet no. 900 (now 3839).
In total, until the end of 2007 334 Solaris trolleybuses were built, including 183 of type T12, 102 - T18 and 49 - T15. With exception of one vehicle (unfinished prototype with Astra, the future of which is uncertain), all were in service in 18 cities in 9 European countries.
During the next two years 44 vehicles were delivered to customers. Compared to earlier years it was a severe reduction, particularly when one takes into account that 14 of them were built for Tallinn as a part of a long-term order. Unsuccesful was the contract with Kiev for 108 trolleybuses with Cegelec and Medcom traction units that was planned in 2008 but was never accomplished due to shortage of financial guarantees. This reduction was however compensated by entering new markets. Trollinos were delivered for the first time in Austria and in Portugal. As far as one vehicle for Coimbra may be regarded scarcely as an encouragement to renew the outdated fleet in this city on Iberian peninsula, an order with Salzburg for delivery of 23 (with option for further 2) articulated trolleybuses for European trolleybus capital may be appreciated as a big success. Three initial Trollinos came to Salzburg in Autumn, 2009.
Another novelty was establishment of cooperation with next maker of traction electrotechnics, Czech Škoda. New offer resulted in increase of deliveries on closed market of this country, moreover that the vehicles are sold by Škoda Electric a.s. under the home logo Škoda. The first customers of the "new" trolleybuses were transport operators in Pardubice (6 T15 alias Škoda 28Tr), Jihlava (8 T12 alias Škoda 26Tr from long-term order for 23 trolleybuses) and Teplice (5 T12 and 1 - T15).
It must be mentioned here that Solaris trolleybuses are marked in very different ways, according to seller and maker of electric equipment. Trollinos are (or were) sold not only by Solaris Bus & Coach itself but also by Trobus, Ganz Transelektro, Ganz-Škoda, Solaris Czech (only in the Czech Republic) as well as by Škoda Electric. In the case of trolleybuses with Cegelec electrics additional DC lub AC were used as symbols of alternate or direct current. Trolleybuses from Gdynia and Budapest do not have similar marks but the latter were sold as Solaris Ganz Trollino (later Ganz-Škoda Trollino). Vehicles fitted with Medcom are in turn designated Solaris Trollino 12M or 18M. Quite another story are trolleybuses delivered by Škoda. Although this firm abandoned production of complete trolleybuses with it's own bodies, it is still using it's traditional symbols when sells trolleybuses by itself. Vehicles with Solaris body are sold then als Škoda 26Tr, Škoda 27Tr or Škoda 28Tr (respectivetely with T12, T18 or T15 body). Trolleybuses contracted by Solaris Bus & Coach and equipped by Škoda on Solaris Bus & Coach's order are sold as Trollino 12S or 18S.
To avoid possible misunderstandings and confusion only factory symbols T12, T15 and T18 or Solaris Trollino 12, Solaris Trollino 15 and Solaris Trollino 18 are used at this site in general. Other symbols are given at detailed descriptions of particular vehicles.
Up to date: December 2010.
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