By Thandisizwe Mgudlwa – AfricanBrains
Cape Town is committed in providing better transport for those most in need.
And in late 2011, the City of Cape Town had put out a tender for the supply of 190 feeder buses for the MyCiTi bus project.
This week a statement revealed that there was keen competition by bus builders around the country to get the contract.
A Johannesburg-based Busmark 2000 won the business and was tasked to deliver 30 feeder-route buses by the end of June this year after which 20 buses a month will be produced until the order has been completed.
Malcolm Wilken, Busmark 2000 Western Cape general manager says it was decided to opt for the Optare Solo product, produced under licence from UK company Optare.
“Initially the plan was to assemble the new buses at Busmark 2000’s facility in Johannesburg but then it was decided, for various reasons (mostly logistical) to rather assemble the products in Cape Town.
“Now it is a hive of activity at the Busmark 2000 Western Cape branch in Elsies River, where some 140 staff are beavering away in assembling the products for delivery.
“The basic kits from which the buses are assembled are currently being imported. However, various parts including tyres, windscreens, paint and seats, amongst other, are being sourced in South Africa with over 40 local suppliers being used so far.
“The Elsies River factory, which represents an initial investment of some R5 million, has been set up to assemble any bus body type, according to Wilken. Currently premises are rented, but Busmark is in the process of acquiring vacant land in the City of Cape Town area where a new custom-build plant will be set up next year.
The Optare Solo assembled at the factory has a length of just 9m and minimal front overhang, which provides for much easier maneuverability within suburban areas, but Wilken points out the factory has the capacity to build bodies of up to 12m and even 18m articulated buses, similar to the MyCiTi buses currently being used.
Wilken adds that the City of Cape Town may need up to 600 Optare Solo buses in time to come and the Western Cape operation will also be looking at other market opportunities.
In addition, Busmark is one of the leading bus manufacturers in Africa which in addition to manufacturing, also provides aftermarket support and refurbishment work. The Elsies River operation will mirror these activities, Wilken says.
Busmark’s website claims that it is currently the preferred body builder for many of the major vehicle manufacturers in South Africa with OEM clients that include Hino Trucks, Isuzu, Iveco, MAN Truck & Bus, Mercedes, Volvo and so on.
Other major clients include the government, Unitrans and several mining groups. It also builds buses for bus operators, schools and tour operators.
“The City of Cape Town’s order provided us with a solid foothold from which to work from and in time to expand our offering to the local market”, concludes Wilken.