MAN about town
The MAN lion is a familiar public transport badge in cities around the world, attesting to the solid reputation MAN has built as a leading commuter-bus manufacturer. A recent landmark deal with Metro Group’s KZT Bus Services confirms MAN’s ongoing dominance of the local market.
From humble origins in the 1920s using donkey and cart to move commuters from Durban’s outlying suburbs into the city, the Metro Group of Companies has grown into a leading South African public transport operation based in the eThekwini region and incorporating five dedicated commuter bus services with a combined fleet of 200 people carriers.
Credit for this remarkable growth must be attributed to the late Mangaroo Jaipal, who started the business. Strong ethical values and legendary business acumen more than compensated for Jaipal’s lack of formal education.
In a significant deal with MAN South Africa, Metro Group’s KZT Bus Services has now taken ownership of 29 new Lions Explorer HB1 and HB2 buses that look set to redefine public transport in the region. These buses are part of the Metro group’s replacement policy for a 200 strong fleet spread over 5 business units with a 10% empowerment component. The business units – all of which are contracted to the KwaZulu Natal Provincial Department of Transport – comprise Combined Transport Services, KZT Country Cruiser, KZT Bus Service, Metro Bus Service and Duzi Bus Services. KZT Bus Service and KZT Country Cruiser (which operates in the Ndwedwe area) emerged after Mangaroo acquired both services following the liquidation of embattled provincial government-backed KwaZulu Transport in 2001.
At the official hand-over celebration on 4 October 2009, Metro Group managing director, Ishwar Mangaroo, addressed a crowd of over 200 people. “The bus passenger transport industry is a 24/7 operation with exacting demands on staff, their families and suppliers. Whilst the goodwill that accompanies an organisation’s reputation may take years to develop, it can so easily be lost in a moment through a lapse in concentration. It is for this reason that the importance of nurturing strong and loyal partnerships is so critical,” he said.
“With a host of challenges facing bus operators in South Africa, the addition of the new Lions Explorer buses to the Metro-KZT Hammersdale depot is a clear statement of commitment to passenger safety and comfort, especially in Mpumalanga Township,” Mangaroo added.
The 11 MAN HB1 and 18 MAN HB2 models were assembled at the manufacturer’s Pinetown plant and fitted with Lions Explorer bodies produced at the MAN Bus and Coach plant in Olifantsfontein. The value of the deal, totalling R45 million, was financed jointly by the Bank of Baroda and Standard Bank of South Africa.
“This transaction represents a milestone for MAN,” said Ray Karshagen, management board member, MAN Truck and Bus SA, at the hand-over ceremony. “It is indeed an honour and a privilege to do business with a company of Metro Group’s calibre, where the transport needs of the community are addressed so vigorously.”
Both the MAN HB1 and HB2 models are equipped with six-cylinder inline common-rail diesel engines that comply with Euro 3 emissions standards. While the HB1 buses have six-speed ZF manual transmissions, the HB2 models are supplied with Voith automatic transmissions. The MAN HB1 and HB2 chassis are fitted with Voith retarders.
“The combination of common-rail engines, advanced gearing technology, electronic braking systems and intarders is helping us realise a 15 to 20% saving in fuel consumption,” says Vikesh Maharaj, Metro Group’s general manager. “The power, safety and comfort features in these new buses allow us to navigate challenging roadways in the area more efficiently and our customers have expressed much satisfaction with the enhanced service,” he adds.
The 65-seater buses come with a three-year/200 000 km warranty and an additional three-year maintenance contract. “MAN also supplies driver training for these new models in the form of an intensive course based on the MAN ProfiDrive curriculum, which promotes safe and economical driving skills,” Karshagen adds.
According to Mangaroo, “as a subsidised transporter servicing Department of Transport contracts, we are bound by stringent safety rules which include regular vehicle inspections as well as penalty clauses for non-compliance. Having 24/7 technical support from MAN has really helped in this ongoing process of improving passenger safety. Our team of 180 drivers has the necessary skills to safely pilot the new Lions Explorer fleet.”
With competition for commuter bus contracts as fierce as ever, vehicle uptime is essential if operators are to successfully service the commuter market. “The Metro Group fleet comprises 70% MAN buses. One major advantage the new MAN range brings to Metro-KZT is its 30 000 km service intervals. With more hours spent on the road more economically, we can continue to offer customers enhanced levels of safety, reliability and affordability,” Mangaroo concludes.