The 24th edition of the biannual professional bus and coach exhibition Busworld Europe, held in Kortrijk, welcomed 376 exhibitors from 36 countries and received more than 37,000 visitors from 118 countries. Not just manufacturers and component makers but transport authorities, city Mayor’s, town planning authorities visit the show to understand the development and options in multiple modes of urban and rural transportation. Busworld is more than a bus exhibition and it also premiers trams, trolley buses and many more alternate mode of transportation.
In the side lines of Busworld, a debate was held as a part of “India day” and We from CV News.in, was a part of the closed room discussion, where is Officials and Top Management members from various manufacturers, component makers and system integrater’s were also part of discussion. A presentation was made by Consultant Mr. Ananth, from Frost & Sullivan, on detailed product segmentation and how India is moving towards other modes of transportation.
While Europe looks India as a market, which is very cost competitive and is too price sensitive, and there is a little scope beyond premium Intercity coach and City bus, where the European manufacturers can lift from Europe and offer in India. But in reality we have more headroom, and just in that case if they wanted a larger volume they need to develop products for local market. Daimler is taking the first step in working in a front engine platform, Volvo is taking the BRTS buses to next level with UD range of buses. Its just a matter of time, Volvo will reinvent Eicher brand in bus segment, just in a way how they did with trucks.
During the discussion, We expressed Why India deserves a new product, catering to local requirements and stated needs of Indian public. While the entire bus volume of European union is half the size of Indian bus market currently, and Indian market will have a compounded growth upto 20% and may reach 60,000 units during the year 2020, we definitely deserve a dedicated product. Here we present some of the important takeaway for India from the Europe and Busworld and inturn what Europe needs to understand from India.
Front engine bus platform still have lots of Juice
While many western countries have phased front engine bus platform, India will continue to work on the same, as this is still a cost effective and easy to maintain platform considering the local infrastructure. It’s no longer right to call front engine bus as built on truck chassis, morally and technically. Now these buses have full air suspension, Multiplex electrical architecture, automatic transmissions and many more sophisticated technological advancements like any rear engine bus. In our humble view, the versatility of this platform is still unearthed.
A front engine 900mm floor height, 14m bus will be the best choice for operation at Sub-urban regions. Similarly, leave away bi-articulated 24m buses, even a 18m vestibule will be the cheaper to acquire, when its on front engine platform.
India need high capacity buses
While a city like Kortrijk, Belgium which has 1/10 the population of Bengaluru, still has multiple options in high capacity buses, we have already phased out double deckers and looking to phase out articulated buses and don’t have product at 14m length (which can have a passenger capacity of 75+). While high capacity buses not just help people move quickly, but also plays a role in reducing carbon footprint, as they reduce the overall number of buses on road.
For a country like our’s Vestibule buses are still an excellent and low cost option for mass transport of passengers. We deployed them in wrong routes towards city centres and claimed they are creating traffic havoc. While Ashok Leyland has shown what was an articulated bus to India, it is Tata taking the lead in modernising the platform suiting to UBS II.
Even in case of premium city buses, we may need to consider quick adoption of Low Floor buses instead of Low entry buses, as the former has carry more passengers.
Metro is not the only way
While Mr.Sreedharan, Metro Man of India may still claim, Metro being the right solution for fast growing Indian Cities, we need to understand, Metro is not the only choice. Metro’s work very efficiently in moving mass volume of people in shortest time, it works more effectively with proper feeder services. While we claim, Indian roads are narrower and don’t have room for BRTS, but strain ourself in building expensive tunnels, and have not looked at elevated BRTS corridors.
Ideally we need to explore Bus based rapid transportation, Trams in closed corridor – may even share corridor with BRTS, to understand which will be the best and how each system is integrated to ensure free movement of passenger.
Passenger Hub and Spoke model
Hub and Spoke is the model followed in goods transport, we may need to consider the same for passenger transit as well. While Metro’s and BRTS can de-congest quickly from city centre, we may look at developing various passenger hubs and shall work with flexible buses from there on to city suburbs.
This way, a passenger need not wait for a bus which has a frequency of one hour to go home. With higher frequencies, metro’s and BRTS quickly move people and feeder buses there on take the lead.
Integrated public transport
While we are spending crores of rupees for urban development under “Atal Mission For Rejuvenation And Urban Transformation – AMRUT”, we need a single nodal point city agency who can handle city’s complete public transportation, like what we have ‘Transport for London’ (Tfl) for London.
TfL has responsibility for London’s network of principal road routes, for various rail networks including the London Underground, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway and TfL Rail, for London’s trams, buses and taxis, for cycling provision, and for river services.
Without this kind of integration, having individual organisation for buses, local trains and metro’s
means none will be integrated. That’s one reason Chennai took nearly 10 years to have a decent ridership in its elevated MRTS corridor, as it needs to sustain of its own without help from MTC for feeder services.
Electrification is not the only way forward
We Indian’s are very flexible and too quick. Sounds unrealistic right! What happened on 29th March 2017? Supreme Court issued notification on, to stop selling BS3 vehicles post April 1st, which was only less than 72 hrs. But we tried to liquidate as much stock possible, converted as many trucks and buses to BS4 as possible, registered them as fake as possible and successfully mitigated the huge road block. While the judgement itself was highly controversial to what happened in past, being the Apex court we din’t have too many options.
Similarly, just because we have allotted huge funds under “Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India”, we are looking at only the former part of it – Electric vehicles. Rapid urban development means, we may need to consider various options considering long term sustainability, local adaption and technological challenges. Battery electric buses are still in a nascent stage in Europe, we are already jumping that we will look at only Electric buses in near future.
As a part of city planning, we may need to understand where a electric bus can ply, then a outer circle where a Hybrid buses can ply and final circle where we can still consider diesel powered buses. While Euro 6 diesel powered engines are way cleaner than what we think, a E6 Diesel – Electric hybrid is still a better solution. One side GoI is pushing alternate mode of public transportation, the other side we have placed Hybrid’s in the max slab in GST. So it’s time we look back our strengthens and ask what we want from manufacturers. India is a large market and we will need better transportation beyond conventional modes as we have now. Hope for the future!