Held at Brussels (Belgium), the prime biennial bus and coach show, Busworld Europa 2019, celebrated its 25th Anniversary by drawing attention to mass commercialisation of EVs and technologies to mitigate climate change.

Story by : Ashish Bhatia

Belgium’s first historic landmark, the 102 metres imposing Atomium made for a stunning backdrop.

Celebrating 25 years (actually 45 years because of its biennial nature) of its existence and a successful journey, Busworld Europa 2019, held at Brussels (Belgium) from October 18 to October 23, 2019, was grander and more interesting. Reflecting the status as Europes’ oldest bus and coach fair, the 2019 edition, held at Brussels Expo, marking a shift from Kortrijk where it was held without fail until now, turned out to be bigger and more exciting. Taking the risk of scaling up, the expo much to the delight of the organisers, made for a highly insightful dip into the Europe’s bus and coach world. Having scaled up by over 30 per cent in net exhibition surface as compared to the 55,000 sq.m. space available at Kortrijk Xpo, Busworld Europe 2019 proved to be a big success. Expressed an elated Mieke Glorieux, “A lot of work and lot of sleepless nights went into this show. We are very proud of the result. I want to thank all the people involved. My own team, the Kortrijk Xpo team who moved to Brussels with us to organise the extra services and the Brussels Expo team, who did a tremendous job in hosting us.”

Occupying space, encompassing a mammoth 79,000 sq. m across nine halls, Busworld Europa 2019 drew 511 exhibitors (up from 367 in 2017) from over 37 countries. It attracted the participation of 75 manufacturers as compared to the participation of 66 bus manufacturers in 2017. Among the top participating countries in terms of exhibitor representation was Turkey. There were 93 Turkish companies that participated. Next was Germany with 78 companies and China with 54 companies. Mentioned Glorieux, “I am very grateful to the exhibitors who supported us and the numerous visitors that came from all over the world.” Averred Redgy Deschacht, President of Busworld, “This is the best possible evolution for Busworld we have been working and hoping for.” “Edition after edition, the growth and internationalisation went hand in hand,” he quipped. Added Deschacht, that they would not have been able to do this without the loyal support of their exhibitors.

Mieke Glorieux, Exhibition Director, Busworld.

An estimated 39,798 visitors from over 143 countries came to Brussels Expo. Witnessing 310 vehicles being displayed indoors across nine halls and close to 42 demonstration vehicles stationed outside the venue, the visitors were greeted by Belgium’s first historic landmark, the 102 metres imposing Atomium made for a stunning backdrop. Created on the occasion of the World Fair of Brussels in 1958, the popular engineering marvel made for a perfect silhouette against the next-generation buses and coaches parked underneath. Complementing the historic relevance was the quantum technological leap by Europe’s bus and coach market. Reflecting how the bus and coach manufacturers in Europe, along with their ancillary suppliers, have narrowed on technologies to mitigate climate change and address the demands of the future of mobility, the exhibition played an effective platform for a significant proliferation of electrification technologies.

Jan Deman, Director, Busworld Academy

Highlighting a stark difference in the approach of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), when it came to testing the waters with EV prototypes, the 2019 edition put the spotlight on mass commercialisation of EVs. Especially China with Europe looking to follow in close pursuit. Making a compelling case as a production-ready solution for public transportation despite the limitations in infrastructure, fuel-cell buses made their presence felt. They drew crowds for their ability to produce zero carbon and zero particulate emissions. At the Busworld Europa 2019, in fact, the talking point was fuel-cells having a greater potential than pure electrics. Hydrogen fuel-cell buses having graduated to production ready units from protos.

Redgy Deschacht, President, Busworld.

The Busworld Foundation officially signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the UN Habitat on the opening day to collaborate by organising conferences and workshops with an intention to create high-level programs for all the stakeholders in the worldwide bus and coach sector. As part of a common propaganda, the two partners will undertake industry research to identify barriers in the uptake of modern and future-oriented bus systems. Having an objective to collaborate in research and knowledge sharing activities, Busworld and the UN Habitat aim to improve accessibility and mobility for city residents. They also aim to jointly identify funding opportunities for future collaboration on raising awareness, and to build capacity on the topic of future-oriented bus systems. Calling upon the bus industry to sign up with the Action towards Climate Friendly Transport (ACT) which saw OEMs like Alstom, BYD, Caetano Bus, MAN, Safra, Solaris, VDL, Volvo, and Yutong willingly sign up, the Busworld Academy is looking at playing an increasingly active role in the journey of Busworld into the future.

Mohamed Mezghani, Secretary General, UITP

A newly created dedicated bus unit through UITP, in collaboration with Busworld, held an International bus conference featuring 15 conference sessions, 60 speakers, workshops, roundtables, and immersive experience sessions with participants from over 45 countries. The Conference programme contained parallel sessions, and included UITP stand presentations, immersion experiences featuring a wide selection of pioneering European research projects, guided tours and opening plenary sessions. The ‘Redefining Public Transport’, the session featured the landmark BBC documentary series to draw attention to the bus and coach sector and highlight the manner in which people’s lives benefited by using public transport. ‘Electric and New Energy Buses’, ‘Everyday operations’, ‘Bus Fundamentals’, ‘Business Growth’, ‘Bus Operations in Growing Economies’ were other topics covered with panelists invited from Dubai, London, Montreal, Milan, Moscow, Los Angeles, and Santiago. The Busworld Academy programme welcomed 154 speakers and 1,017 participants. With 550 International Bus Conference delegates visiting the exhibition through thematic visits, organised by UITP, Busworld Europa 2019 highlighted the new Clean Bus Europe Platform (CBEP). Within the framework of the European Commission’s Clean Bus Deployment Initiative, it will provide the knowledge and technical support to more than 50 cities across Europe to boost the uptake of clean bus technologies. Putting the spotlight on electric and new energy buses, hydrogen buses, bus operations, innovations, maintenance and tendering, the bus and coach industry stakeholders touched upon many key areas.

A newly created dedicated bus unit through UITP, in collaboration with Busworld, held an International bus conference.

Drawing attention to the high-level seminars with high-quality speakers, Jan Deman, Director, Busworld Academy mentioned, that he could not have asked for more. In collaboration with NGVA Europe, the Busworld Academy organised a seminar about Gmobility, involving the current European equation of Compressed Natural Gas and Liquefied Natural Gas infrastructure. Pointing to the fast penetration of renewable gas in terms of the future of Gmobility, the seminar saw one of the speaker call for the need to enable regulations. He also deliberated upon the best ways to remove the existing market barriers. Another speaker’s averred that Gmobility, with the supporting gas fueling infrastructure, is ready to deliver an affordable and concrete way to move people. It is ready to transport freight in a sustainable manner as well, he said. It was unanimously agreed that Gmobility was the most effective catalyst for the European Union 2050 decarbonisation goal.

The seminar on ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) held in collaboration with ITS.be, ICB and HOGENT deliberated on ways to fit buses and coaches into a multimodal mobility chain.
Stakeholders of the bus industry signed up with the action towards Climate Friendly Transport (ACT)

Arousing good amount of interest, the seminar on automation saw participants highlight safety, efficiency and regulations. Held in collaboration with the Belgian Institute for Road Safety VIAS, the seminar saw speakers discuss the regulatory aspects involved in the automation of buses and coaches. The panel came to a consensus that technology is at an advanced stage yet far from being 100 per cent ready in terms of the legal framework required to introduce autonomous buses in public transport. Drawing attention to each Belgian PTA’s involvement in several tests, the session highlighted the rapid implementation of autonomous shuttles and buses in private areas, especially hospitals or university campuses. The seminar on ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) held in collaboration with ITS.be, ICB and HOGENT deliberated on ways to fit buses and coaches into a multimodal mobility chain. Their role in the on-demand public transport in Flanders and the opportunities that lie in the data generated by MaaS-platforms was touched upon. It was unanimously agreed that the integration of bus and coach services in the MaaS concept was crucial for the survival of the companies involved.

Mike Slugocki, President, MS Transit Solutions, American Bus Association.

On the sidelines of Busworld 2019, the first Academy Congress in North America was announced. It will promote passenger-centric, technology-driven and sustainable bus and motorcoach transportation throughout North America. Holding an informative session on the import regulations in North America in collaboration with the American Bus Association (ABA), the Busworld Academy also drew attention to the wrongly feared ‘Buy America’ regulation. The academy, through the session brought to notice that an estimated 900 affiliate companies account for nearly 2000 vehicles. ABA, for instance, represents about 60 per cent of the coach companies alone, it highlighted. Opined a speaker that a handful of American-based OEMs paved the way for newcomers to enter the US market, especially the suppliers. As per the ‘Buy America’ regulations, he said that the interested parties need not fear importation into the US. The import restrictions, he added, only applied to the city and transit buses that are financed either partially or entirely with federal public money without impacting the regional or urban concessions. The school buses and coaches, explained another speaker, were not subject to this restriction. Software is excluded too, he informed. Also delved upon were exemptions for parts or systems not available in the US, or those lacking in quality. Orders below USD 150,000 also found mention.

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