PANAMA CITY, Panama, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Panama has ordered 1,000 fuel-efficient Volvo buses in a major revamp of its urban transport system aimed at cutting congestion and air pollution.
Celebrated in 2003 as the American Capital of Culture along with Curitiba in Brazil, the capital city is now described by residents as a ghost of its former self because of heavy environmental degradation, auto traffic chaos, crime and other urban problems.
The order for the Volvo was seen by analysts as part of a plan to discourage residents from bringing their cars into the overcrowded downtown.
Volvo said in a statement it won the contract because its B7RLE bus chassis is noted for low fuel consumption. A high level of availability of the model was also a decisive factor in Panama's decision to purchase as many as a thousand of the buses.
"This large contract is evidence of the superior quality of the brand's vehicles, and reinforces our leadership in organized urban mass-transit systems, known as Bus Rapid Transit," said Luis Carlos Pimenta, president of Volvo Bus Latin America.
Panama City is implementing a program to modernize the city's transportation system, and the 1,000 Volvo buses will operate on routes in all city districts. Panama has more than 3 million inhabitants, and one-third of them live in the city.
Panama's transport consortium Transmassivo signed the order which involves partnership with Colombia's Fanalca Group. Fanalco owns bus operators in several Latin American countries and represents one of Volvo Buses' largest customers.
The chassis for the city bus will be built in Boras, Sweden, while the bodies will be manufactured in Colombia by Superpolo, a joint venture between Marcopolo and Fanalca.
Pimenta said the buses will be equipped with an automated gearbox, automatic braking system, air conditioning, disk brakes and electronic suspension – an advanced kneeling system that lowers the bus side to facilitate boarding and disembarking for passengers.
"Our vehicles' low fuel consumption and the high level of availability logged by the B7RLE fleet purchased by the Fanalca Group in previous years in other cities of Latin America were decisive in the company's decision to once again purchase Volvo chassis," Pimenta said.
Production of the chassis will commence this month and will continue till the second half of 2011. The first complete buses will be ready for delivery to Panama City at the end of this year, Volvo said.
Volvo Bus Corp. is one of the world's largest manufacturers of large buses and coaches. It is part of the Volvo Group, one of the world's leading manufacturers of trucks, buses and construction equipment, drive systems for marine and industrial applications, aerospace components and services.