Wednesday 18 | Thursday 19 | Monday 23 | Tuesday 24 | Wednesday 25 | Final
Kortrijk, Monday 23 October- UITP-BUSWORLD INTERNATIONAL BUS CONFERENCE
10:00-12:30: Opening session
10:00: The morning began with Cynthia Bonsignore, UITP Communications Manager, as the upbeat MC, welcoming everyone to the conference and introducing our first speakers.
First up to the podium was UITP President, Pere Calvet Tordera, General Manager of Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC), Barcelona, Spain. He opened the conference by reminding us of the reason we are all assembled here: to share and connect experiences in the bus industry and move the industry forward together.
10:15: Mr. Calvet was immediately followed by our event host, Redgy Deschacht, President of BAAV, which organises Busworld. He warmly welcomed his guests and filled the audience in on the history of Busworld, which is now boasting its 24th edition. The first Busworld conference, held in 1971, was also held in Kortrijk, and this 24th edition will be the last edition in this historic location as the conference has grown too large—bittersweet, indeed! Our host was proud to be collaborating with UITP to create what he felt was the biggest, most unmissable event for any stakeholder in the international bus industry.
“Let me assure you”, said Mr. Deschacht, “there’s no way you can get bored here.”
10:25: After the welcoming speech from our Busworld host, the audience was welcomed even further to the city of Kortrijk via a dynamic video message created by Vincent van Quickenborne, the Mayor of the city of Kortrijk. The video took the audience on a virtual tour through the city, and the Mayor walked us through the local culture and vibrant city streets, reminding us that no matter where we come from, “we face the same problems in cities all over the world”, and the issue of mobility—getting from work, to school, back home, or to socialise or visit family—is something we all share.
10:35: This heart-warming video was followed by opening remarks made by François Bellot, the Federal Minister of Transport for the Belgian government and Nikolaus von Peter, Member of Commissioner Bulc Cabinet in the European Commission. Both government experts spoke about the changing industry and needs of the people, new technology rising along with new business models.
Mr. von Peter stressed the importance of decarbonising the industry: “clean buses are indispensable in making transport more sustainable”. He informed the audience about the new “Clean Vehicle Declaration”, which UITP and some of its members have agreed to officially sign this Wednesday 25 October. The UITP EU Department has published a press release defining their terms for signing, which you can read in full here. For next year, Mr. von Peter informed us that multimodality would be the dedicated focus of the Commission, and that the Commission will continue to create conditions for buses to “integrate and connect” with other modes.
10:55: Just as the energy in the audience started to simmer down and we started thinking about our second cup of coffee, our keynote speaker, Alok Jain, Managing Director of Trans-Consult Asia Ltd, took the stage and brought us all to life with his inspiring words. With 36 years of experience, Mr. Jain started us off by telling us that although the world of public transport is always changing, we are currently at the cusp of a major transformational period. He asked his audience this question: “Does public transport have a future?”
A private car cannot possibly be the solution for hundreds of millions of people all trying to get in and out of the same cityscapes. We absolutely need public transport in the future, he insisted, due to the finite space provided in city environments and the constant growth of the population. Our challenge is to improve the image of the industry.
His next question: “is it [public transport] a public necessity or a social responsibility?” Mr. Jain then explained how valuable the bus industry is. Any successful business, he argued, is built near a bus station. Buses are moving office spaces, a place to do your work or socialise rather than sit still in traffic. The industry, as has been proven in Hong Kong, can absolutely run without any government subsidies. We can make the bus industry profitable by focusing on three key aspects: customer experience (he stressed the importance of MaaS), operational execution, and maintenance regime.
“A passenger has a face, a journey doesn’t”, said Mr. Jain to an audience hanging on his every word. He counts customers rather than journey numbers. “[In Hong Kong] we carry 5.5 million unique customers per month”.
The goal is to make public transport appealing to all segments of society and each unique customer.
Mr. Jain ended his speech by bringing up one of bus drivers’ worst fears: the rise of automation. However, he reminds us that a bus driver does more than drive the bus. He also provides customer service, ensures safety on the bus, provides emergency assistance—in brief, a bus driver has many roles that technology cannot fill. “A human touch can truly enhance the experience”, said Alok Jain.
Our keynote speaker reassured us that people were truly at the heart of all aspects of public transport, and they always would be, regardless of the changes in the industry. “I have no doubt”, said Mr. Jain, in answer to his own original question, “that public transport as we know it has a very bright future”.
Boom. Applause. Thank you for setting the bar so high for public transport and the bus industry, Mr. Jain! We are truly inspired!
11:30-12:30 : Plenary session, “Journey towards integrated electric bus systems”
11:30: After the opening session began our first plenary session, “Journey towards integrated electric bus systems”. The chairperson for this session was Thomas Fontaine, the Deputy General Manager & Chief Technical Officer of Keolis in Lyon, France. He opened the session and introduced us to his fellow presenters, beginning with Thierry Wagenknecht, Vice President at UITP for the Bus Division, and Technical Director of Transports Publics Genevois (TPG), in Geneva, Switzerland. Mr. Wagenknecht spoke about asset management as a key success factor for the development of electric buses. He used examples from Geneva to illustrate how an intelligent energy management system with real-time operation monitoring lead to longer energy lifespan for chargers and optimise the charging time for buses.
11:45: We move then to our next presenters: Aleta Verrips, the PR & Marketing Manager for ViniCity in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Steve Cornes, the Electric Bus Project Manager for Nottingham City Council, in Nottingham, United Kingdom. Together, they shared insights into Europe’s largest electric bus operation with 58 e-buses. Furthermore, Mr. Cornes shared how understanding your data will improve reliability and reduce costs.
11:55: Joseph Ariño, Responsable de mantenimiento de Installaciones y Nuevos Proyectos, for TMB in Barcelona, Spain, took to the podium. He shared his experience in the construction of an electric bus line in Barcelona, illustrating the infrastructure and planning in detail.
12:10: The last of the panellists to present was Natalia Kozdra, the Marketing and Communication Director for Ekoenergetyka-Polska Sp. z.o.o., in Zielona Góra, Poland. She spoke about optimised charging systems in fully electric bus depots. Her company has worked on 30 projects across Europe, and delivered 140 stations. She explains how each charging station solution has to be adapted to the needs of the city, but indeed we will be seeing more and more cities moving to fully electrified bus fleets, and we need to be prepared for an affordable charging solution.
Undoubtedly, the rest of the Conference will prove to be just as engaging as this opening session and first plenary! We’ll be back after lunch!
14:00-15:30: Parallel Session 2- Improving customer experience for bus passengers
14:00: As we all traipsed in to Meeting room 8, David Favest, the Marketing Director of STIB in Brussels, Belgium, and newly appointed winner of the Marketer of the Year Award, took to the podium. With a charismatic and cheerful approach, he introduced us to the speakers of this session.
14:15: First up, was Alejandro Pinate, the Customer Relationship Marketing Manager for Vectalia, in Alicante, Spain. Alejandro shared with us his company’s approach in gaining new riders and remaking the public transport rider experience in the digital age. Engagement with each customer is key, he insisted.
He expressed the importance of listening to customers, and encouraging them to share their opinions, stories and ideas on your company’s social media pages. Technology, he furthermore argued, can provide the first “customer self-service” options. “We are the Ikea generation”, said Alejandro. “We like to build, we like to ask.”
14:35: Next came a presentation from Ümit Kuvvetli, a Statistician from ESHOT General Directorate in Izmir, Turkey. He explained how to measure service quality in public transportation using smart card boarding data. For example, objective information such as the waiting time, the bus stop details, passenger density (during boarding and service), can provide some insight into the quality of the service. Certain factors are also accounted for, for example, the waiting time is calculated and adjusted based on any disabilities one may have, or for elderly passengers, versus for students and adults. A very interesting way to imagine the overall experience of the customer!
14:55: The next presenter, Luis Fernando Lozano Bonfil, the President of Grupo ADO in Mexico City, Mexico, stepped to the podium. Mr. Bonfil first introduced us all to the context of his multinational company based in Mexico, calling Grupo ADO the main passenger transport operator of the world, with 77 years of experience in mobility. They mainly work in Mexico and Spain. Mr. Bonfil explained how the company’s goal is to improve living standards through mobility: “whatever moves you, moves us.”
He discussed customer experience in terms of an open market (as in Mexico) versus in a regulated market (as in Spain), the title of his presentation being “The intercity experience in Mexico & Spain.” He outlined in detail and with video presentations the difference between building value for customers in these two different markets.
15:15: Our final panelist, Roger Wilson, a Public Transport Consultant in Sydney, Australia, ended the session with his presentation on how to improve punctuality by mining bus location data. Better punctuality in buses can improve customer satisfaction, according to public perception. Furthermore, it can also contribute to staff satisfaction, reduce driver overtime and save money. Mr. Wilson shared with us his process in Sydney of setting up KPI (key performance indicators) targets to ensure that 95% of buses leave on time and operate according to schedule (with a maximum of 6 minutes delay). “Poor punctuality is predictable,” he argues.
15:30: David Favest wrapped up with session with a brief discussion with his fellow panelists and the audience at large. Thank you all for such an interesting session focused on the customer’s needs and experience!
Back after the coffee break!
16h00-17h30: GROWTH OF ELECTRIC BUSES IN CHINA
Alok Jain – our brilliant UITP-Busworld keynote speaker – is chairing parallel session 4 ‘Growth of Electric Buses in China’ - in conference room 3+4.
Mr Jain is now at the podium introducing the session programme and the four panellists. This session has a full audience as many gather to hear about the growing market of electric buses in the world’s most populous country. With statistics such as 98% of all electric buses running in China, this session is the place to be to hear about this subject!
Our first speaker has taken to the stage – Gaopeng Ll, chief engineer of Zhengzhou Yutong Bus Co. Ltd. Entitled ‘Intro to E-bus market & technology deployment in China’ Mr Gaopeng Ll has many interesting statistics on the development of electric vehicles in China. China ranks first in the world for the development of the E-bus.The audience are keen to hear how China has advanced the market so far – the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the ‘Safety Technical Conditions for Electric Buses’, which greatly enhanced the requirements on safety.The 200 units of 12-metre battery electric buses in Shanghai can make full use of night valley electricity to meet operational needs. The buses have a maximum driving range of about 250km. Mr Gaeopeng Ll’s presentation has finished and the audience are now fully informed!
Up next is Mr James Wang, the Editor-in-Chief representing Changzhou Transit Group, who will discuss the performance evaluation of hybrid electric buses in Changzhou.Mr Wang tells the audience about the hybrid buses being developed in the city. He provides the statistics on the energy saving rate of the buses. Real advancements are being made.
Next to take to the stage is Dr. Jianping Hu, the Executive Deputy Chairman of China Public Transportation Association in Beijing.Dr. Hu is discussing the electrification of the urban transport system and the e-mobility policy in China.
The final speaker in today’s E-Bus in China session is Mr Joe Ma, Deputy General Manager, discussing the experience and inspiration of the whole urban bus electrification in Shenzhen.The Shenzhen Bus Group are the first member from China to sit on the UITP Bus Committee.
Many interesting facts and opinions shared on the stage this afternoon. The future of electric buses is not only important but also advancing at great speed!
The advancements being made in China are sure to spread elsewhere if the positive reactions from the audience are anything to go by.