A new medium-haul bus has been introduced into the local market by German automotive company Mercedes-Benz South Africa, part of the DaimlerChrysler group, as part of the company’s 2010 vision.

The Mercedes-Benz Multego Coach is currently equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. However, all future orders will come equipped with an automatic transmission. The coach is 14 m long and has a load capacity of 24 t. The bus has a seating capacity of between 48, 52 and 60 seats.

Mercedes-Benz South Africa Commercial Vehicles national bus and coach manager Anthony King reports that the coach is best suited for medium-haul applications such as journeys from Pretoria to Johannesburg.

He adds that Mercedes Benz South Africa is hoping to capitalise on bus operating compa- nies’ capacity expansion leading up to the 2010 FIFA soccer World Cup.

It is expected that there will be a significant increase in international tourists in the country during the 2010 FIFA World Cup; to accommodate this, bus operating compa- nies are expected to significantly increase their fleets leading up to the event.

“Because of the increase in tourists who will be in the country for the duration of the event, bus companies will need to increase the size of their fleets to capitalise on the increased demand. Mercedes-Benz South Africa has introduced this coach to serve this need,” says King.

He adds that the configuration of the vehicle is suited for medium to short dis- tances; however, the vehicle can be recon- figured to suit long-haul applications at the expense of a few seats.

The reaction to the coach in the interna- tional market has been good. DaimlerChrysler society and technology research group spokesperson Dietmar Weiss reports that there are currently 10 000 of the Multego Coaches currently in operation in Germany. He adds that the company will be able to supply between 1 500 vehicles and 2 000 vehicles a year to the German market.

King reports that Mercedes-Benz South Africa has the ability to supply between 80 and 100 vehicles a year to the South African market.

He adds that there has been significant interest shown in the Multego Coaches, with a number of solid orders already being placed.

Meanwile, Mercedes-Benz South Africa has a number of urban transport solutions geared specifically for the Gautrain feeder system.

Weiss reports that Mercedes-Benz has designed an interior system for the vehicle, which has the engine at the back of the bus to allow for more seating at the front of the bus. The bus is 13-m long and can accommodate 33 seated passengers and about 30 standing passengers, with two wheelchair facilities.

A feature of the bus is that it has specific wheelchair access ramps that are not electronically operated, which will not take any unnecessary power away from the vehicle.

The buses are also designed with curbside access that allow passengers to embark and disembark from the bus easily.

The interior of the buses is designed specifically for short distances and will be best used in residential areas where there will be a number of park-and-ride facilities available to users.

Weiss reports that Mercedes- Benz South Africa has tendered to be the official Gautrain feeder system provider and a decision on the feeder system provider is expected to be made soon.

Weiss reports that the buses, which are being designed for the Gautrain feeder system, can also be used in bus rapid-transit (BRT) applications.

He adds that the seating configuration would need to be modified to accommodate more standing passengers as passengers would be using the BRT system for short distances.

In addition to designing buses to be used specifically for BRT applications, DaimlerChrysler has also assisted in the design of a number of BRT systems. The most complex system was in Bogotá, Colombia.

The city of Bogotá had been planning to build a subway to accommodate the steady increase in the city’s population for a number of years. However, the construction of a rail network went beyond the city’s budget.

The result is that the roads became incapable of accom- modating the increased pressures put onto it by traffic.

As a result, the city, in conjunction with DaimlerChrysler, designed a BRT system to resolve the situation.

The features of the Bogotá BRT system include a BRT dedicated multilane system, which allows overtaking and the use of express lanes within the BRT lanes, reduced areas of traffic where only the BRT systems operate, preboarding ticketing, which reduces process time, and pavement-level access, which makes embarking and disembarking safer and easier.

The BRT system, which is accessible to all sections of the population, was built in just 24 months. In addition, the existing bus operators were integrated into the system.

Weiss reports that by 2015, the plan is to make the network so comprehensive that 80% of the city’s residents will have a bus stop within 500 m of their home.

“The system works as well as a subway system. More than 1 000 diesel-powered articulated buses, 350 of which are from Mercedes-Benz, are deployed on the exclusive bus lanes. The city’s already wide roads helped the system’s rapid implemen- tation,” says Weiss.

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
AUTHOR: Jonathan Faurie
DATED: 21st November 2008