Bus maker Optare confirms £18 million South African deal

Posted on 20 Dec 2011 by Tim Brown

UK bus manufacturer Optare has signed a contract worth up to £18 million under which it will supply 190 of its Solo SR midibus model to the City of Cape Town.

The fleet of buses will form a key element of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network being introduced by the City Council as part of a world-class Integrated Rapid Transit (IRT) system combining all modes of public transport.

Central to Optare’s successful tender against a number of other global bus makers  was the support provided by Ashok Leyland and the partnership forged with South Africa’s leading bus assembler Busmark 2000. The latter will produce the buses at a new plant in Cape Town from kits of components and sub assemblies supplied by Optare.

Optare Chief Executive, Jim Sumner, said: “I am delighted that our focussed efforts on growing our overseas business continue to yield results, in this case with the award of a very significant contract from one of the world’s most exciting cities. We knew from the start that we had the right product in our stylish and fuel efficient Solo SR model.

“We look forward to building on this contract to supply further vehicles into this important market, and to show that with our new state-of-the-art facilities at Sherburn in Elmet, Yorkshire, and the significant support of our strategic partner Ashok Leyland, we can meet demand for fleet volumes of buses at an internationally competitive cost both at home and abroad.”

Under the contract Optare is supplying the 8.9 metre version of its Solo SR model powered by the Cummins ISBe six-cylinder engine. This meets Euro 5 emissions standards in line with the environmental requirements of Cape Town Council’s IRT strategy. The 201 horsepower (150 kW) engine will be matched to an Allison five-speed automatic transmission incorporating a lock-up torque converter to support better fuel efficiency.

Cape Town’s IRT Authority will operate the buses in conjunction with the local minibus-taxi associations, who currently provide a large part of the public transport services in the city. Operating under the MyCiTi brand, they will replace the minibuses and provide faster and more efficient feeder services from outlying townships to rail terminals using dedicated bus lanes on main routes. Cape Town City Council will take delivery of the first 60 vehicles by June of next year with the balance to follow before the year end.

Unusually the vehicles will have both a conventional forward access door on the nearside and an exit door on the offside. This will facilitate fast discharge of passengers at the railway terminals from where they will complete their journey into the city centre by train.