Low floor buses invariably meant integral construction and a rear engine not to mention a big cost outlay. Not any longer if one has to go by Ashok Leyland’s novel approach with its Jan bus.
There is something about the ‘can do’ spirit which has been imbibed by many of our Indian OEMs as they grapple with the onerous task of delivering worthwhile solutions to mobility while forsaking outright tech for smart thought. Much that very essence pervades the very concept of the Jan Bus (Jan as in janata, public) that has surprisingly come from the uber staid and not to mention, ultra conservative Ashok Leyland.
This is certainly a good time for one of the country’s pioneer commercial vehicle manufacturers to stand up and not just be counted but also spearhead thought and energy into a direction, which can only benefit mass transit public movement. The Jan Bus is, according to Dr V Sumantran of Ashok Leyland, the world’s first front engine, single step entry fully flat low floor bus and that is something that somehow has never entered the mind set of the big MNC CV specialists.
The Jan Bus is a clever reading of rules and regulations and trying to deliver a simple yet modern package, which is technologically right up there yet is pretty cost effective. Entry to the bus sees one step up to the floor just 650mm from the road surface and if the keeling option is specified then the floor at the entry level drops down to an even more comfortable step height. The bus comes with a choice of configurations as regards doors, single sided twin or three openings or double sided for BRTS application. The doors are wide and swing open and shut hydraulically allowing quick passenger movement both ways. If that is not all, the bus can be configured in areas of seating as well as door placements plus it can also be pressed into service not just as the favoured BRTS vehicle of choice but also in airport tarmac applications and normal city transport.
The overall exterior look is clean and distinctive and what really was impressive given that the likes of Volvo have made buses get a decided upmarket sheen to them these days is the fact that the Jan Bus is so very sanitary. It is clean, cool and uncluttered plus its overall design with soft rounded corners also helps minimise pedestrian injury should there be a mishap. Dr V Sumantran informed me that the Ashok Leyland team has applied for no less than 16 patents on the construction and configuration of the Jan Bus and that they were not going to stop having seen the advantages of the layout and the way it affords cost effective solutions for a lot of our government funded transport utilities.
In fact, Dr Sumantran said that for the price of three rear-engined city buses by any of the high profile MNC bus makers presently operating in the country, one could get five Jan Buses and more importantly also have significant savings in operating costs as well. The Jan Bus is equipped with a brand new 235HP turbocharged MPFI engine fuelled by CNG, which is BS4 compliant. Ashok Leyland’s proprietary Leymatic AMT (automated manual transmission) system is mated to this engine and helps improve driver efficiency and reduces fatigue by doing away with strenuous clutch operations and repeated gear shifts.
This isn’t a bus like in the past from Ashok Leyland. The Chennai-based truck and bus maker, a part of the Hinduja Group, is now shedding its overt conservatism for modernity and it shows in the way the seats and seating layouts have been crafted, the modicum of style inherent in the interior to make it fresh and appealing, the clever bits to bring better ergonomics even to those who would journey standing. Infotainment systems for the passengers, a host of driver aids for better control and safety plus also of course enhanced efficiency all around combine to make this a bus ripe for the times. That it has come from Ashok Leyland is a pleasant surprise and a harbinger of hope to many impoverished transport utilities in the country.