Buscor’s bonkers bi-articulated buses
Parked head-to-tail, the line would snake for more than a kilometre. But as GAVIN MYERS discovers, that doesn’t worry the folks at Buscor, which has placed an order for 40 of the longest buses in Africa – it excites them
You may remember the 27-metre long bi-articulated bus MAN previewed at last year’s Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS). Actually, you should remember it – if you saw it, you wouldn’t forget it, that’s for sure. It’s the longest bus in Africa.
At the time it was reported that Buscor – Mpumalanga’s leading passenger bus operator – was running 10 of these buses as part of a Buscor/MAN pilot project, in conjunction with the Mpumalanga Department of Transport, to bring greater efficiencies to passenger transport using increased length buses. Following the success of that, Buscor signed an order for 40 new MAN bi-articulated buses at JIMS. Those new units will be added to Buscor’s existing bi-articulated bustrain fleet of the 10 prototypes in anticipation of new legislation being passed to allow the commercial deployment of 27-metre long buses. Current legislation limits the maximum length to 22 metres.
“The 10 bi-articulated bustrains currently in service are operating under a special dispensation from the Department of Transport as part of the pilot project implemented to help reduce traffic congestion, road damage and carbon emissions,” says Fred Kinnear, managing director and founder of Buscor. “The addition of 40 new bi-articulated bustrains to our fleet will significantly reduce the number of Buscor buses on Mpumalanga’s roads.”
Buscor transports 175 000 passengers per day between Barberton, Hazyview, Ngodwana and Komatipoort, covering 2,3 million kilometres each month. The 27-metre long bustrain can carry 137 seated passengers – a significant improvement on single-articulated bustrains, which seat 115 passengers, and conventional 78- and 65-seater commuter buses.
“Passengers using our existing bi-articulated buses love the ride comfort and the additional safety aspects introduced into this new product. The vehicles are limited to 80 km/h and the longer wheelbase makes it more stable, which adds to the feeling of safety for our passengers. It even boasts an improved turning circle compared with the single-articulated bus,” adds Kinnear.
Ray Karshagen, deputy CEO, MAN Truck & Bus SA, says: “This efficient solution results in very similar fixed operating costs compared to a single-articulated vehicle – one driver, one driveline and four axles with the same number of wheels – but accommodating a greater number of seated passengers and therefore improved revenue for the bus operator.”
The new bi-articulated bustrain has been developed by MAN in conjunction with Buscor and is based on the MAN HB3 36.390 4×2 chassis with air suspension. The buses use an uprated 287 kW (390 hp) MAN drivetrain with TipMatic transmission. The prime mover (developed by MAN in Germany) is connected to two single-axle trailers, ensuring an even distribution of mass while retaining a four-axle configuration.
The trailers are being engineered at MAN’s Pinetown assembly facility, while the Lion’s Explorer bodywork development is being built at MAN Bus & Coach at Olifantsfontein. Cooling trials – an extremely important aspect in the development of these vehicles for South Africa’s conditions – have been certified by MAN in Pinetown to ensure the cooling system can cope in the Lowveld’s sub-tropical climate.
Kinnear is understandably enthusiastic about the bustrains. “The bi-articulated bustrains bring new economies of scale to our operation, offering better fuel-per-passenger figures than any other bus model, which boosts our profitability while conserving the environment.”
Those sentiments are echoed by Karshagen. “The core objective of high-density passenger transport is moving more people efficiently, safely, affordably and comfortably. The MAN Lion’s Explorer bi-articulated bus meets all those criteria.”