Icom NZ Case Study: Howick and Eastern Buses


Howick and Eastern Buses Limited have operated as a business for over 95 years and pride themselves on providing a dependable service to the public. In order to support Auckland Transport's goals in transforming Auckland's public transport network, as well as its continued focus on service improvements, Howick and Eastern invested in a new dispatch and radio system for their entire fleet of buses. Troy O'Dea, Operations Manager of Howick and Eastern said this was a major purchase for the business with the health and safety of their drivers at the top of their list.

Despite investing in another radio manufacturer's DMR digital radio and dispatch system less than 18 months ago, Howick and Eastern turned to Signals NZ Ltd for help. "We endured frustration after frustration as the system failed time and time again," says O'Dea. "We had to put up with interruptions to our business, complaints from staff and the union on top of the repeated frustration. It seemed like it would never end. We had installed a new system that was just not fit for purpose."

Signals NZ had just successfully installed a Bury phone system into the Mana Bus fleet - a city to city bus service that is a sister company to Howick and Eastern Buses, both are under the Souter Group umbrella, so were aware of the expectations and requirements by Howick and Eastern. "Signals NZ along with Icom New Zealand provided a new NXDN digital radio and dispatch system that was off the shelf and amazing from day one," says O'Dea. After bringing in their technical team from all across the country, Signals NZ were able to change over Howick and Eastern's entire fleet over the course of six days. "These guys worked around our day to day operations with no interruption to our operational work - it was if they weren't even there. Our only clue was when the words "Signals radio test" kept coming over our new dispatch system. The General Manager of Icom NZ popped in at the end of each day of the changeover to see how it was going which gave us peace of mind that behind the Signals team, is a manufacturer willing to stand by their product," says O'Dea.

The other manufacturer's DMR digital radio and dispatch system that had been causing operational problems for over a year, despite numerous engineer visits to try and get it working fully, was swapped out with Icom's IC-F6063D NXDN digital radio. The IC-F6063D offers advanced multi-mode operation, improved scanning and flexible installation. Communications between the Howick and Eastern base and their drivers have become more efficient with contact being able to be made from base to drivers and drivers amongst each other. The radio system can call individuals, pre-set group, or all buses at once for important updates, changes to routes and driver welfare checks. Howick and Eastern buses have found the Icom NXDN digital radios have an enhanced coverage area over the previous DMR digital system.

Bus drivers were now able to receive clear and loud audio thanks to the pre-set volume on the front mounted speaker. The built-in audio compander improves the signal to noise ratio giving crystal clear communications at all times. The health and safety of Howick and Eastern's bus drivers that was a priority for O'Dea, could be met by the system's reliability as well as the radio's escalating alarm. When the driver pushes the emergency button programmed on the front of the radio, a direct alarm is set off at the Howick and Eastern base along with the bus number it came from. Howick and Eastern also purchased Icom IC-F4263DT NXDN digital handheld radios for their ground crews. Howick and Eastern's gates are also operated via the radios in the buses for hassle free entry and exit to and from the yard as well as added safety and security. Like all other land radios in Icom NZ's range, both the IC-F6063D and IC-F4263DT benefit from the 5 year warranty which truly shows the confidence Icom NZ have in their products. "We are extremely happy with our new Icom NXDN digital radio system and network. It was simple to use, cost effective and reliable," says O'Dea. "From day one we had crystal clear communications. We are happy with the product and ecstatic with the service."

Auckland's public transport system is set to be bolstered by a fleet of 53 new double-decker buses. The introduction of double decker buses is an exciting step for Auckland's public transport as each double-decker can carry about 100 passengers, compared to the usual 45 to 70. The Enviro500 buses have been purchased by Howick and Eastern Buses Ltd and NZ Bus while Ritchies Transport Holdings have invested in new BCI deckers. The new Enviro500 double decker buses purchased by Howick and Eastern will also have Icom NXDN digital radios installed into them by Signals NZ Ltd and will be operating on their bus routes next month.

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