MAN, that’s a long bus!
MAN introduced some interesting concepts under its Lion’s Explorer bus range at the Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS). For example, how does a 27 metre-long bi-articulated bus sound?
MAN is growing its bus family – literally so! Its new 27 m, 137-seater, Lion’s Explorer bi-articulated bus-train – the longest bus in Africa – was displayed at its JIMS “MAN Building” (outside, of course) as a preview of the future of local commuter transport.
The bus-train is a perfect example of MAN’s Consistently Efficient programme; allowing a large number of passengers to be moved as efficiently as possible in high-density areas, especially during peak periods. “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 these criteria,” says Ray Karshagen, deputy CEO of MAN Truck & Bus South Africa. MAN is particularly excited about the concept, as the company is playing a key role in changing current legislation to extend the maximum length of buses to 27 m.
The combination consists of a 4×2 prime mover with two single-axle trailers, ensuring an even distribution of mass whilst retaining a four-axle configuration. MAN claims this solution results in similar fixed operating costs to a single-articulated vehicle, whilst accommodating a greater number of seated passengers – all equalling improved revenue for the bus operator.
Mutterings could be heard outside the MAN building, with show visitors saying they would dread to be the driver tasked with this bus. However, MAN claims the additional articulation has improved the bus-train’s turning circle by 1,5 m compared to the single-articulated models, actually enhancing its manoeuvrability through the intended inner-city routes. Furthermore, a standard EC licence is required – the same as for a single-articulated unit.
Trailer and bodywork development is being done at MAN Bus & Coach in Olifantsfontein, Midrand. Both the chassis and trailers are fitted with air-suspension for greater occupant comfort. The bus-train is also fully compliant with all Road Traffic safety regulations, including roll-over requirements and seat anchorage stipulations. Maintenance-free Hübner articulation couplings, guaranteed for 10 years, are used.
Another exciting offering at the MAN stand was the Lion’s Explorer LE low entry bus. The European trend of low entry busses is gathering momentum in South Africa, with the first tender for this type of bus being awarded to MAN by the City of Tshwane. There are 150 MAN low entry busses currently in operation throughout the country, and the company used JIMS to unveil at its prototype A84 bus chassis (part of the Lion’s Explorer family) for this market.
Branded the Lion’s City LE, the locally-developed bodies have up to 90% local content. Total seated capacity of the A84 LE prototype is 42 passengers, with the low-level entry portion allowing a high capacity standing area, as well as wheelchair access. Various configurations are possible to allow for less seated, or more standing, passengers.
The chassis suspension incorporates a “kneeling” function that lowers entry height when stationary. In addition, a manual fold-down ramp reduces the first-step height. The unit is designed to be versatile, for easy adaptation to two-door entry and a right-hand side door can also be fitted for BRT or IRT applications.
MAN is hoping these two new models will be game-changers when it comes to local road-based mass transportation.