Over 3000 bus and cab operators came together to make the inaugural edition of Prawaas expo a success.
Story by: Ashish Bhatia
Over 3000 bus and cab operators found their way to Vashi, Navi Mumbai, on July 28, 2017. They came to participate in the inaugural edition of a bus and cab exhibition – Prawaas 2017, organised by their apex body, the Bus Operators Confederation of India (BOCI). Held at the CIDCO Exhibition Centre in Vashi, the fair, organised by BOCI in association with MM Activ Sci-Tech Communications, attracted over 120 participants, including bus and car OEMs, and many delegations. To be held at different locations starting next year, the inaugural edition, under the theme ‘safe, smart and sustainable transport’, presented an effective platform to private bus and cab operators – big and small. Visited by 10 international delegates, 80 industry experts, and 100,000 trade visitors, the fair saw participants showcase their products, technologies, aggregates, and more to forward their business interests. Proving to be the right platform for service providers, and those that indulge in training and skill development, the fair reflected upon the change that is taking place in the Indian bus and the cab industry. Expressed Akash Passey, Senior Vice President, Business Region International, Volvo Bus Corporation, that the event marks a turning point. “For someone who has been associated with the bus industry for the last 25 years, it is good to see operators working in the same direction and towards the improvement of the industry,” he mentioned.
Pointing at an ability to work together, and to provide high service standards, the fair provided the stakeholders of the bus and cab industry an opportunity to explore new avenues of growth, and possibilities. The coming together of private and public operators to achieve a common goal for example. Facilitating interaction among vehicle manufacturers, fleet operators, policy makers, NGOs, and innovators, Prawaas 2017 reflected upon global trends and best practices. Through the seminars that were held on the sidelines of the show, experts in the industry provided an insight into how the industry is changing, and how it is addressing the various challenges it is facing. Highlighting how operators are putting customers ahead of everything else, the fair, held over three days, saw participants voice their concerns and achievements. Expressed Prasanna Patwardhan, President of BOCI council, and CMD of Prasanna Purple, “The idea (of the fair) first germinated in 2001 owing to a service tax levy followed by a period of lull due to an abatement that followed in 2004. The recurring hike of the levy in 2014 led to us contemplating a national level representation.” The objective is to promote health, happiness and economic prosperity of the society through safe, smart and sustainable transport, he averred.
Change of perception
Drawing attention to the changing perception of public transportation in other parts of the world, Patwardhan called upon the government, operators, NGOs, and others, to come together to achieve a common goal. He opined that transportation is given priority as per the needs globally, and not as per the size of the vehicle, which is a case in India. It is because of this, that buses are prohibited from plying on some congested routes, he said. Echoing the sentiments of bus and cab operators in the country, Patwardhan spoke about the issues faced by them. In his inaugural speech, he urged union transport minister Nitin Gadkari, the chief guest, to look at three specific issues (one nation, one permit tax; elevation of maximum allowed speed from 80 to 120 kmph, and all-India permit to sleeper coach) faced by them.
In his speech, T. Venkatraman, Senior Vice President, Global Buses, Ashok Leyland, averred that a solidarity of purpose was needed. “There is a sense of urgency today to transform the country to what it is truly capable of, and we are willing to offer all the support possible,” he said. Pledging support as an Original Equipment Manufacturer to BOCI, Girish Wagh, Head – Commercial Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors, expressed that the passenger transportation industry has specific set of needs. “BOCI as a forum will fulfil them,” he mentioned. Providing an important perspective in his speech, Passey expressed that India is the world’s second largest bus market by volume after China. He opined that an important milestone of building a bus ground up has been achieved by India. Touching upon key developments like a rising movement to rear-engine buses, air-conditioned buses, and towards a PPP model, Passey explained, “There is a need to benchmark with global standards. There is a need for a definitive synergy between the government, the association of State Transport Undertakings (STUs), and bus operators to achieve a common goal of improving public transportation.”
In his inaugural speech, the minister of tourism for Maharashtra state, Jayapura Rawal, said that buses are playing a crucial role in promoting tourism. Pointing at the Greyhound Lines, Inc., which serves more than 3800 destinations across North America with a modern and environment friendly bus fleet, he mentioned that the state will soon open 10 integrated tourism hot spots with all the amenities. Assuring reform in transport and the associated infrastructure, Gadkari, in his speech, said that the government is taking a host of initiatives in road engineering. Citing road safety as the top most priority, the minister averred that an expenditure of Rs.11000 crore was incurred on improving the national highways. Urging bus operators to deploy quality drivers on the job, Gadkari informed that 2000 driver training centers would be launched across the country in the near future. With stress on increasing the length of national highways from 96,000 km to 1,75,000 km, the union transport minister stated that the total length of highways has gone up from 5,000 km to 22,500 km in Maharashtra.
Assuring that his government will provide roads of international quality, Gadkari touched upon the use of cement. Roads of international quality will elevate operator efficiency, he said. Calling upon OEMs to build high quality buses, Gadkari said that the ministry will hold the respective OEM accountable for any lapse in quality. Telling them to refrain from offering substandard products, the union transport minister revealed that he has finalised the amendments to the bus and sleeper coach code. Stressing upon quality not once but many times, Gadkari called upon for the use of alternate fuels to provide a high quality experience to commuters at lower costs. Stating that it was possible to reduce the cost of bus fares by approximately 25 per cent with the us of alternate fuel, Gadkari reasoned a need to reduce the import bill of Rupees seven-lakh crore the nation incurs to import crude oil. Touching upon the use of bio-diesel and ethanol among other alternate fuels, the minister explain that 15 home grown companies will provide second generation ethanol. He Mentioned that the price of lithium-ion battery packs has dropped by 30 per cent. Stressing upon the need to go fully-electric, Gadkari stated, “You (OEMs) have to offer import substitute; cost effective and indigenous products in line with the make in India vision.” Keen to see the number of buses increase to 40,00,000 from the current 17,00,000, the minister explained that his government would encourage the use of public transport.
Recognising industry leaders, BOCI felicitated excellence through the ‘Prawaas Excellence Awards’. Contributions in the area of best practices, services and innovations were the hallmarks of the awards curated by EY (erstwhile Ernst & Young).
Conference at Prawaas 2017 delved upon a diverse range of topics including passenger footfall increase, creation of uniform regulatory framework for ease of doing business, capacity building through skill development, and tapping emerging opportunities in multi-modal integrated transport solutions among others.
Mahindra & Mahindra
Mahindra Trucks and Buses (MTB) displayed a wide (2350 mm) body Comfio bus for staff transportation with a seating capacity for 40 people. Providing more shoulder room and gangway space due to greater width, the Comfio, available in two different wheelbases (4200 mm and 5260 mm), marks the company’s renewed thrust in the bus space. With a range of new buses expected from the manufacturer, including some on the new ICV platform that it is developing, and will be unveiled next year, stress is also being laid on alternate fuel te chnologies.
Volvo Buses displayed the Hybrid city bus and the BSIV emission compliant 9400 multi-axle coach. Both the buses are premium offerings, and showcase technology in the form of superior comfort and safety for the commuters. The buses feature ABS, Electronic Braking System (EBS), disc brakes and hill-start among others.
Scania India displayed a 12 m Euro6 city bus. It is powered by a five-cylinder, nine-litre diesel engine that developes 280 hp at 1900 rpm and a peak torque of 1350 Nm at 1400 rpm. The 32-seat low-floor bus is equipped with a six-speed ZF ecolife transmission with an integrated retarder. Suspension is pneumatic all-round. Other features include an electronic braking system, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and a reverse camera.
Putting up an attractive display, ICICI Bank highlighted its CV funding schemes, which promise quicker processing, flexible repayment and up to 100 per cent funding on the chassis.
Ashok Leyland displayed a 36-seat 130 hp BSIV Lynx Smart and 160 hp Viking staff bus. The company also displayed a 225 hp Freedom front-engine inter-city ‘comfort’ coach. The Freedom can seat up to 41 people depending upon the configuration an operator chooses.
Force Motors displayed Traveller passenger vehicle variants including the one that was customised by Pinnacle Modify. The company also displayed the BSIV Trax range of utility vehicles.
Tata Motors showcased a wide range of its smart city commercial vehicle offerings. These included the Ultra electric bus, the Magic and the Magic Iris electric passenger vehicles.
VE Commercial Vehicles
VE Commercial Vehicles (VECV) displayed the Skyline Pro midi-bus (AC). The company also displayed a 16-tonne staff bus with an Automated Manual Transmission (AMT).
Announcing that it will build sleeper coach for Scania on its 14.8 m multi-axle bus chassis, the MG Group displayed its tarmac coach ‘Columbus’, highlighting an OEM play. The MG Group also displayed a ‘Shivshahi’ inter-city 12 m front-engine mid-premium bus built for MSRTC. Based on a 180 hp Tata LPO bus chassis, the ‘Shivshahi’ bus order amounts to 250 units. As per the agreement, MG Group will transfer the design of the bus to MSRTC. Confident of the Mammoth premium front-engine bus project in association with MAN achieving greater success, MG Group is banking on tarmac coach to invade a special application market not only in India, but also the world over. The Columbus complies with international tarmac coach manual, and is a modular design.
Bangalore-based Veera Vahana Udyog Pvt. Ltd., displayed the Veera Samrat 12 m high-deck sleeper coach. Indicating an OEM play with key components like engine, transmission and axles sourced from the respective suppliers the Samrat, also called as C7, marks an important milestone in the history of the company. Having 30 berths, the bus weighs 16.2-tonne. A front-engine design powered by a 230 hp Cummins BS5.9 series engine and a six-speed manual transmission, the sleeper coach complies with the sleeper coach code. It features Wavellar spring type suspension at the front. Rear suspension is pneumatic. Creature comfort is dialed by JTAC (Astro-540) AC, stylish and comfortable sleeping berths, CCTV, infotainment systems, navigation guiding lights, charging points, reading-lamps and an emergency exit door at the rear. Veera Vahana also displayed a school bus in ‘left hand drive’ guise for the Middle East markets.
The highlight of Wabco India was its AMT technology. The company displayed a Tata Marcopolo staff bus bus with AMT. Finding use on buses dveleoped by a host of manufacturers in India, including Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland the AMT setup includes an ECU that communicates with the engine ECU. An hydraulic shift unit, mechatronic in nature executes shifts. Elevating safety by reducing driver fatigue and elevating fuel efficiency by selecting optimal gear ratios, AMT is cost effective when compared to an automatic transmission.
KPIT displayed ARAI certified Intelligent Transport System (ITS) for JNNURM II compliant buses. It comprises of a gamut of technologies that are said to facilitate better passenger travel experience. These include automatic vehicle location, over the air calibration, Passenger Information System (PIS), surveillance camera, emergency voice calling, ETM interface and Vehicle Health Monitoring & Diagnostics (VHMD).
Eberspächer Sütrak Bus Climate Control Systems India Pvt. Ltd., showcased a new air conditioning system meant for large buses (AC332). The company also showcased an AC for the mini bus segment manufactured at its Bengaluru facility.
Jingyi Trans Climate Control System India (P) Ltd., (JTAC) displayed a Snow Leopard AC series. The company specialises in the manufacture of a wide range of ACs for inter-city, intra-city, sleeper coach, staff, school and special application buses. With emphasis on an efficient support network to ensure a positive user experience, the company is looking to ride the growth wave in buses.
Hiager India Air Conditioning Pvt. Ltd. displayed a bus AC model for 12 m and 14 m coaches. The company offers bus ACs in the 12 kW to 43 kW range. Suitable for use in five-metre to 14 m long buses, the ACs the company offers are claimed to be backed by an efficient support network.
Pricol showcased its range of speed governors at the fair. These are aimed at addressing the regulatory need for fitting of speed governors of buses so that they do not exceed a stipulated maximum speed and compromise safety. The range consists of a DC motor type (single speed) governor and a fuel solenoid type (single speed and dual speed) governor. The latter features a micro-controller based design, and is claimed to not cause a reduction in the fuel flow to the engine ensuring full power to it.
Allison displayed a cutaway of the auto transmission it offers. Claimed to elevate fuel efficiency, safety, and reliability by eliminating the shocks suffered by a manual transmission driveline every time the transfer of power is interrupted and re-introduced, the company caters to the need of truck, bus and defence vehicle manufacturers and users. Combining advanced features like ABS and EBS compatible integral retarders, the company has developed the T180 auto transmission model especially for the Indian market. It is deployed in front-engine buses plying in various cities in India, including the BRT buses in Ahmedabad.
Hella India Lighting Ltd.
Hella India Lighting Ltd. displayed a host of products it supplies to the bus industry. Of particular interest were the halogen, xenon and LED lamps on display. The company immersed LED lamps in a tank of water to demonstrate their ability to work even under the most severe conditions without fail.
Wheels India Ltd., displayed control and specialty products like leveling valve, electronic controlled air suspension and the electronic kneeling system among others.