Cape Town’s Optare Solos enter service

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Buses are step-free with ramps and audio door alerts for blind and disabled passengers

SOUTH AFRICA Cape Town’s first easy access buses, Optare Solo SRs, started operation this month. They have been welcomed by blind and mobility impaired residents living on the MyCiTi route from Civic Centre to Walmer Estate and Salt River.

The route provides connections to the Cape Town and Salt River railheads as well as the city and other MyCiTi routes from Civic Centre station.

It created an operating challenge as the historic District Six, Walmer Estate and Woodstock suburbs are situated on the slopes of Table Mountain. They have twisting, narrow, congested streets with steep inclines and sharp corners. A conventional bus chassis could not cope with these demands.

The UK-manufactured, South African assembled Optare Solo SR provides the necessary manoeuvrability because of its minimal front overhang, low floor and nine-metre length. The vehicle accommodates 50 passengers, 25 seated. It is powered by a rearmounted Euro 5 Cummins diesel engine and is highly compatible with the Allison automatic transmission fitted for its suitability for stop-start operations and smooth gear changes.

The low-floor vehicles have boarding ramps and no steps so boarding and alighting is at pavement level. Coupled with samelevel docking at MyCiTi stations, this offers ease of access for all, including the elderly, wheelchair users and mothers with prams.

Jeremy Opperman, who is blind, spoke on behalf of many with disabilities: “The tactile paving helps us find our way and audio signals alert us when the bus doors open. The new service lets me get to town, the waterfront and the airport independently.”

“To guarantee success, we worked closely with the operating companies and released 20 vehicles early for driver training,“ said Malcolm Wilken, General Manager, Western Cape of Busmark 2000.

The company is assembling over 200 Optare Solo vehicles at its Elsies River factory, creating 150 new jobs. The order, together with the partnership with Busmark 2000, is Optare’s largest ever export order. Potential for future such orders exists both in Cape Town and in other South African cities which are studying the new buses closely.

“It is clear there is a need for a good, reliable public transport service in these areas, and that MyCiTi has all it takes to fulfil this need,” said Cape Town Councillor Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, Roads and Stormwater.