BUSWORLD INDIA LOOKS PROMISING
Next week, the sixth edition of Busworld India will open its doors at the Bombay Convention & Exhibition Centre in Mumbai. It will be held from 28 to 30 April and is being organised by Busworld and its local partner in India, Inter Ads. Year after year, the number of exhibitors and visitors has been growing. In 2013, 93% of the exhibitors stated they would like to exhibit again in the next Busworld India. The 2015 edition will be confirming this positive trend.
India’s Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, came to power in May 2014. The new Government has already started taking measures to stimulate the economy by introducing reforms and repealing many obsolete laws. Current forecasts are that GDP will grow by 6.5% this year. It is quite possible that India could grow faster than China. The recent steep fall in oil prices has been unexpected bonus helping to reduce inflation.
The new Government wants to reduce congestion and pollution by making cities more clean and green. Its ambitious plans include the creation of 100 smart cities which will provide reliable utility services, sanitation, drainage, energy efficiency and comfortable transport systems.
Because the smart cities will be built from scratch, they are likely to have much wider main roads that will lend themselves ideally to Bus Rapid Transit systems. These are much less expensive to install, mile for mile, than metro and other rail-based transport.
Currently, there are only a few BRT systems in India. They have not been wholly successful, partly because they are compromises and have proved highly unpopular with other road users. BRT systems work best when they have sufficient space, as proved by the leading systems in Europe and South America.
One recent development has been the introduction of South American style Bus Rapid Transit vehicles, which have high floors and serve high platforms, so that passengers can quickly and easily enter and depart on the level. It also makes BRT systems easily accessible for passengers in wheelchairs or with disabilities.
At the end of 2013, there were estimated to be around 1,750,000 buses and coaches in circulation in India. For a population estimated at almost 1.25 billion, that works out at less than one bus for every 700 people. The numbers of cars in circulation have been rising but are estimated to be around only 20 per 1,000 inhabitants. Therefore logic suggests that there must be a substantial increase in demand for public transport.
In the last fifteen years or so, Indian manufacturers have made great strides in the design and development of more attractive city buses. They are almost wholly diesel powered, and, while floor heights have come down, there are very few vehicles where a large part of the floor is only one step above the ground. In many cases, the infrastructure is not suitable for low floor vehicles, though that should not be an excuse when planning the new smart cities.
Despite the need to move large numbers of people, high-capacity articulated buses are few and far between. Generally, in India, they are known as banana buses or bendy buses. The largest manufacturer of articulation systems, including turntables and bellows, is Germany’s Hübner. Their Indian subsidiary will be participating in Busworld India, and that is encouraging. It indicates that there is a greater place for articulated buses in the sub-continent.
Hybrid buses have not really progressed beyond the prototype and pre-production stage. They are much more expensive than standard diesel buses, and the payback period has become longer, because of the falling price of oil.
There are a small number of all-electric buses, but, again, initial price is a major obstacle. The Government would like to see at least six million electric vehicles, of all kinds, on India’s roads by 2020. That is highly ambitious and will only happen if there are Government incentives and subsidies for makers and buyers of electric vehicles, and, for that matter, hybrid buses.
Commuter and inter-city coach traffic has benefitted from the construction of new and improved highways. The technical specifications of coaches have advanced, with higher engine power, air suspension systems, power steering, and other features that enhance the ride and handling. Passenger comforts include reclining seats, air conditioning, better insulation, and, in some cases infotainment systems.
The poor relation is usually the country bus that connects villages to the nearest sizeable town. These vehicles invariably have high floors and full length luggage racks on the roof. They are quite frequently re-bodied to extend their working lives and often have the oldest and most polluting engines.
There is also a growing sector for specialised vehicles dedicated to school transport. This is a more recent, but very welcome, development in India. Most of these vehicles are small to medium size with simple front-engine layouts. Many are painted bright yellow with prominent school bus signage.
The Indian bus industry, both manufacturing and operating, have come a long way in the last few years, but still has further to travel. The industry still needs much of the latest Western technology, so Busworld India is an excellent opportunity to study the market and meet the players in it.
Busworld Academy offers, together with IRU (International Road Transport Union), an interesting seminar programme on the 28th and 29th of April. It contains of a two day seminar ‘In the footsteps of Prime Minister Mr. Modi: Increasing mobility via cleaner, safer and effective bus and coach service.’ Registration is free.
More details about Busworld India and the Busworld Academy programme and registration are available on the Busworld India website (http://india.busworld.org/) and through the READ MORE link below the article.