Saturday, 31 August 2013

San Sebastián (Donostia), Spain

31st August 1813 was a fateful day in the city of San Sebastián.  It was on this date that British and Portuguese troops attacked the city, burning it to the ground.

Two hundred years on, San Sebastián is a bustling city.  The old town was rebuilt following the 1813 assault.  The city's position, on a sheltered, conch-shaped bay, enabled it to develop as an elegant coastal resort.  In 2016, San Sebastián will hold the title of European Capital of Culture, a designation is will share with the Polish city of Wrocław.

The city is located in the Basque region, around 20 kilometres from the border with France, on Spain's northern coast.  It is known both by its Spanish name, San Sebastián, and its Euskara (Basque language) equivalent, Donostia.

Trams used to operate in San Sebastián.  However, in the post-war years the system was in need of modernisation.  The decision was taken to close it.  The trams had gone by the mid-1950s, replaced by trolleybuses.  The trolleybus fleet included second-hand double-deckers imported from London.  The trolleybuses operated until 1973.

Today, buses provide almost all of San Sebastián's public transport system.  The city bus network is branded as d-bus, with vehicles wearing a blue and green livery.

Many of the d-bus fleet are standard single-deckers with three doors.


Certain routes are operated with articulated buses, also with three doors:

Smaller vehicles are operated on a handful of routes.  These include short-length (but still three-door) single-deckers, such as this one...

... and minibuses.  Even these have two doors:

The minibuses serve places which larger buses cannot reach.  Route 39 winds its way up Monte Urgull, which overlooks the city.  This image (below) was taken near the city terminus of the route, with waves crashing against the sea wall:

During my visit, in June 2013, I noted a hybrid-powered single-decker which had entered service on the d-bus network.
A flat fare applies on d-bus services.  If paying cash, the fare (at the time of writing) is €1.60, but paying with a smartcard ("Mugi Card") is much cheaper.  The actual fare paid depends on how much use is made of the card during the month.  Transfers between many buses is allowed at no extra charge, within 45 minutes if boarding the first bus, although there are some limits to the transfers which are permitted.

Services heading out of town are branded as Lurraldebus (website in  Euskara and Spanish only).  The Lurraldebus network stretches east to the French border at Irún, west to Bilbao and south as far as Vitoria-Gasteiz

Buses are provided by a number of operators using differing colour schemes based on a standard layout.


Some of the vehicles used on Lurraldebus services have two doors, others have three.
Although most of the vehicles I noted were standard single-deckers, there were other types too including this minibus.

Further variety was evident on the services heading west from San Sebastián towards Zumaia.

These were operated by a mix of vehicle types, including rigid and articulated dual-purpose buses.


Three-axle coaches were operating the service to Azkotia.


The coaches included a double-decker.

Fares on Lurraldebus services are based on a zonal tariff.  Mugi Card smartcards can be used, as on d-bus. 

Through fares are available between Lurraldebus and d-bus, although these are a little more expensive than a fare which doesn't involve transfer.

Other than the double-deck coach, the only other double-decker I saw in San Sebastián was this convertible open-topper, being operated on a sightseeing tour.

Complementing the open-top double-decker is a road train tour, "Txu-Txu".


In addition to these tours, a funicular railway climbs Monte Igeldo, to another viewpoint overlooking the city and its bay.


More information about these tourist services can be found on the San Sebastián Tourism website.

Although San Sebastián lacks trams, it does have a narrow-gauge local rail system, EuskoTren.  Two lines serve San Sebastián.  One, branded as Metro Donostialdea, heads east to Hendaye just across the border in France while the other goes west to Bilbao.  

There are separate websites (in Spanish and Euskara only) for EuskoTren and Metro Donostialdea.

1 comment:

  1. Having been thwarted in subsequent visits to Sandtoft and Carlton Colville it was in San Sebastian that I had my last ride on a London trolleybus in August 1968. We had arrived from France on the narrow gauge electric railway from Hendaye, then having a delightfully antiquated feel about it. I recall what could be politely be described as 'spirited' driving, with full use being made of the great acceleration that these trolleybuses had.