MAN drives Tshwane green
Green is the new purple in South Africa’s “Jacaranda City”. This much was apparent when the City of Tshwane’s commuter bus operator, Tshwane Bus Service (TBS), recently took delivery of a new fleet of buses. GAVIN MYERS reports.
Resplendent in bold green livery (even the seats are bright green), the city’s intentions of realising a revitalised commuter bus service was bright and clear – and, to make this happen, MAN Truck & Bus is its partner of choice. Together, over the next three years, the two entities will drive new vigour into both TBS – used by an average of 488 441 commuters every month – and public transport in the city at large.
TBS took delivery of the first batch (44 units) of its new fleet of buses during August, at an auspicious handover ceremony at the operator’s depot. Present were the City of Tshwane’s Executive Mayor, Kgosientso Ramokgopa, and MMC for Roads and Transport, Councillor George Matjila.
The full fleet of 120 Lion’s City A84 rear-engine, low-entry, Euro-5 buses will be operational by December. Twelve of the buses are compliant with the National Land Transport Act Universal Access Public Transport policy, providing easy access to the handicapped and disabled. The full fleet has been procured on a three-year, full-maintenance lease, after which the city will take full ownership.
With MAN vehicles already making up the bulk of the TBS fleet, the two entities have a good working relationship which, as MD of MAN Truck & Bus South Africa, Geoff du Plessis, notes, is made easier by the company being South Africa’s market-leading bus supplier.
“MAN has worked extensively with local municipal commuter bus operators. These relationships provide solid platforms for future transport projects. The fact that MAN is the only ‘one-stop bus shop’ means greater synergies, efficiencies and swifter turnaround times. Today’s event is testimony to the synergies derived from that competitive advantage,” he said before handing the key over to Ramokgopa.
“We couldn’t have hoped for a better partner in MAN. Over the passage of time, the relationship we have has succeeded in offering our people the best service. I hope and pray that this relationship continues to grow,” said Ramokgopa.
“To ensure the city functions in an efficient manner we need to avoid gridlock. One of the best ways of doing that is to ensure that we introduce safe, affordable and reliable public transport – that’s the contribution of these buses,” he continued. “We want to make sure the offering meets international quality standards. We’re going to be biased towards mass public transport and significantly reconfigure the physical construction of the city space.”
Matjila explained: “The introduction of this new fleet represents the first step in the re-engineering of the Tshwane bus service. As part of the strategy, in the near future we will look into expanding the reach of our bus service further afield into areas not serviced before. For this purpose, 11 new routes have been proposed and submitted for approval. It is therefore necessary that, when the new routes are approved, we are ready to service them with our new fleet.” TBS will also be a complementary service to the upcoming “Areyeng” Tshwane Rapid Transit system.
With many of its ageing buses (some as old as 26 years) now being retired, the new fleet is just one key in the plan to drive TBS to new levels of efficiency. The 45-seater buses (with capacity for 20 standing passengers) benefit from several high-tech features. Fitted to boost passenger ergonomics and comfort are interior and exterior destination boards and electronically controlled air suspension.
A door control harness is fitted to prevent the doors from being opened while the bus is in motion. The bus is also fitted with grab rails mounted in key positions, which allow safe entry, exit and movement in the bus. The passenger seats are customised and exclusively configured to support the City’s go-green initiative.
Safety is increased by the fitment of ABS anti-lock brakes, traction control and on-board tracking and monitoring systems. Another feature that will ensure a smooth-running service, will be the new automated fare collection system. To be introduced at the beginning of the next financial year, this will ensure that drivers no longer handle cash, but merely focus on driving.
MAN is proud that the new fleet is locally assembled in Olifantsfontein, Centurion, and is comprised of 80-percent local content. “This is a proudly South African bus. It has world-class styling similar to other markets in the world. These are great examples of how first-world technologies can be adapted to the needs of emerging economies such as ours,” said Du Plessis.
The full-maintenance lease is yet another key to increase efficiency at TBS. This will see MAN technicians handle all maintenance of the fleet over the next three years at the TBS premises. At the same time, the company will transfer skills and knowledge to the City’s own technicians. (MAN will also conduct driver training.)
“We’ll be transferring skills to young people, so it’s important that we have an appreciation that we are growing the City’s pool of skills,” noted Ramokgopa. “As we migrate to mass forms of public transport, we know that the important issues of reliability and maintenance are taken care of, thanks in part to the work MAN is doing.”
Ramokgopa closed the ceremony thus: “Future generations must continue to enjoy the same benefits that we do today. We must give them the best possible opportunity to resolve the challenges they’ll meet in the future.”
With a revitalised public transport fleet and increased efficiencies to come from TBS, future generations can – literally and figuratively – look forward to a much greener City of Tshwane.