European Bus Forum – Live blog

Posted: 23 June 2016 | Graham Ellis | No comments yet

Graham Ellis provided live coverage of this year’s European Bus Forum produced by Intelligent Transport. The one day conference hosted by Transport for Greater Manchester brought together over 250 delegates across the European bus industry…

Graham Ellis provided live coverage of this year’s European Bus Forum produced by Intelligent Transport. The one day conference hosted by Transport for Greater Manchester brought together over 250 delegates across the European bus industry.

European Bus Forum

17:10: Amy Perry from Aberdeen City Council has 10 hydrogen buses in operation, they generate hydrogen from electrolysis (?), currently largest hydrogen fleet in Europe – I’m not sure what happened to the TfL hydrogen bus fleet that used to operate out of a depot in the Hackney area.

Aberdeen is looking to be a leader in emerging hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. Current project has cost £21 million to date. There are a large number of partners in the project including first group operating 4 buses and Stagecoach operating 6, range is around 250Km’s. The buses have been working six days per week over the last year and have over 75 % availability; they have another 2 years of the project to run. Mileage to date is in excess 385,000 Km. They are currently building a second hydrogen fuel station that will be publicly accessible and will be able to refuel cars, van,  trucks and buses.

Now we’re onto the last presentation, Jeffery Hiott from the American Public Transportation Association is looking at what is happening in the USA. Zero emission buses are on the cusp of commercialisation USA transit buses are funded up to 80% of purchase cost but, must remain in service for 12 years!! Probably around 30,000 transit buses in whole of the country, Americans prefer to travel in cars, pick – up trucks etc.

There is NO charging standard in the US, unlike here in Europe, but they are working on agreeing a single standard. Basically they are facing the same challenges that we are.

That’s the end of the day but, before I close, I asked Stephen Fidler, Deputy Director – Buses and taxi’s Division at DfT what he thought about the conference. He told me that he had found it extremely useful and the event allowed delegates to see what was going on in Europe in terms of both  engineering and operations and  also allowed us to showcase what we are doing in the UK. All in all an excellent conference!

16:50: Well we’re back from afternoon tea and into the final session. Slight change of running order for the speakers Rainer Kolodzie from Spheros is looking at climate control for electro buses. Spheros think that we will have to see the end of diesel power in cities due to the increasing level of pollution.

The move to electro use means air conditioning and heating have to be provided via electric systems, if we’re using this, then the power to drive the bus is reduced in a systematic way. There is no doubt that we will have to look at energy recovery to meet power needs. We’re watching a video of power needs throughout the year starting with winter with an external temperature of -10 degrees but, the bus is still plugged in at the charger, the bus is heated using power from the charger and the batteries are at 100%. Later in the year we move from heating the interior to cooling it, in fact the interior heat is used with a heat pump to provide extra driving power. We have gone through a full annual cycle now watching how the heating/cooling systems work with the batteries. This is something that operators need to consider when looking at vehicle specifications and route usage.

Now we move to a joint presentation from Scania and Nottingham City Transport (NCT) who are telling us about their experience in running Low emission buses. Tanya Neech from Scania is setting the scene and Gary Mason, Engineering Director at NCT, is taking through the NCT fleet. Most of fleet are Euro V and are mostly under 6 years old and are largely full – sized double decker and they need to be able to access the city centre because that is where the passenger’s want to go. Gary wants to know what type of power he should be looking at, the easy option would be to go to Euro 6, in a recent air quality survey his depot had better air quality at run-out and run-in than the local roadside.

What about electric vehicles? Nottingham currently has the biggest electric fleet in Europe, but they are not operated by NCT. Power to charge a 200 bus fleet will draw significant amounts of power from the main electrical grid which is already under pressure and, what happens if we need to change batteries mid – life. Whatever we do my buses need to do around 200 miles before they get back for a re – charge. Gary is still unsure what power source he should choose but, for this year and next year’s bus orders he still needs to work out what to order.

He’s looked at various options including ethanol, hydrogen, hybrid, and bio-gas but are they going to be reliable? Gary has chosen to go for the gas bus option along with all of the necessary infrastructure over the next two years.

15:10: We are now hearing from Ken Scott, Group Engineering Director at Alexander Dennis Ltd (ADL). He is describing how ADL support their customers by providing a suite of vehicles to meet operator and city needs. The company sells vehicles worldwide and not just in the UK, they are clear that Euro 6 engines have improved emissions beyond some people’s expectations.

As a manufacturer they have looked at alternative fuel systems covering everything from hybrids to full electric buses, including both single and double decker versions. London is taking 51 BYD/ADL single deck full electric buses this summer.

A different approach now from Natalia Kozdra of Ekoenergetyka; who produce and install high-power charging solutions. She is telling us about the NOX emissions in London which significantly exceeded EU limits recently. The company was founded in Poland in 2009. They installed their first system in 2012 and now they’re expanding outside of Poland. They produce plug-in chargers as well as pantograph chargers at bus stops where buses can opportunity charge. To date they have delivered a number of systems across Europe. Three Solaria Urbino buses are using 4-6 minute opportunity charges via a pantograph system; this is backed-up by overnight depot chargers.  

Barcelona has purchased a charger for their electric buses but some problems have been encountered with the planning authorities, it is not just technologies that cause problems. The design of the pantograph charger is evolving so that it does not stand out as an ugly piece of metal; new innovative designs are now coming forward.

In their view, e-buses are starting to equal diesel buses in service. They also recognise that sometimes it is easier for smaller authorities to install e-buses whereas bigger locations such as Barcelona and Paris would struggle initially to replace large parts of their fleets with electric vehicles. In addition, plug in chargers require a lot of man power to plug the buses in.

This is a short session as we have an afternoon tea break for 30 minutes.

14:37: Well here we are getting ready for the afternoon session. Lunch enjoyed by all especially as we could sit outside in the sunshine, which used to be in short supply when I lived and worked here.

The first session is being chaired by Andy Eastlake, MD, of LowCVP.

We are going to be looking at alternative power sources and the first speaker is Mikkel Krogsgaard Nis, Head of Section & Project Manager at City of Copenhagen. Copenhagen has an aim to be the first carbon neutral capital in the world and that its air will be so clean it will not adversely affect the health of its citizens; the date has been set for 2025 – not too distant from today.

The existing bus fleet has been retrofitted with a state-of-the-art technology that reduces NOX, this is based on using solid rather than liquid ammonia. Emissions have been reduced by between 90-95% on the 300 retrofitted buses. Last year bio-gas buses were introduced but the main thrust is now to go for electric power. They have some BYD buses that are charged overnight, this year they are adding opportunity charged buses. One problem with electric buses is that some drivers are heavier in terms of power consumption and you can’t just top up power from a filing station, so you need to design routes carefully.

Other vehicles utilise opportunity charging where charging is undertaken at bus stops, currently there are 2 buses on order, having been purchased along with the charging facilities by the city. The buses are due for delivery early in July. The city’s Lord Mayor wants all e-buses for city operations but the area is covered by a number of different municipalities. It is planned that the full e-buses service could be in operation by 2019.

12:53: Councillor Russell Imrie from the South East Scotland Transport Authority is our next speaker; he’s talking about the “Thistle Card” which is available to older and disabled persons to make it easier to use public transport. There is no vetting process of the applicants and the card can quickly and easily tell the bus driver about any extra help the card holder may need during the journey.

Initial costs were OVER £400 per card but this is now down to around £45. The thistle card is being developed into a thistle card app – most of the users are already tech savvy and have asked for this facility. It is hoped to launch later this year.

We now move to the panel session just before lunch. This afternoon’s session commences at 14.15 when we look at alternative power systems.

See you later.

12:23: The tea break is over and we’re back in the auditorium for the safety & security session. Craig Waters, our editor, will cover the ticketing session.

This session is chaired by Dora Ramazzotti from the SRM Public Transport Authority of Bologna. She has just introduced Mark Munday from First UK Bus who is talking about safety developments in vehicle systems. The first technology the group utilises is CCTV – it provides a speedy tool to investigate reported; and sometimes unreported incidents; the next is telematics used to improve driving characteristics, then this is allied to situational awareness using the Cycle Eye product. They also use management information systems to provide data on driving standards and highlight risk items that might not have been picked up in isolation. The group also has in-house accident investigators. In Rotherham there is a Life Wise Centre – a village designed to utilise driving skills, take incidents into a controlled environment and ultimately through to a court room with a local solicitor playing the judge.

The next presenter is Jane Lupson from Transport for London, who is bus collision reduction programme manager.

We are looking at the TfL road safety plan and the 2015 Safe London Streets: our approach documents. The KSI figures that TfL set were achieved in 2014 and so the targets have been increased. Bus collision trends are monitored closely and this has driven the bus safer programme. They are commissioning a bus fatality review using analysis of police accident files. They are involved in contract monitoring of tendered bus contracts and are also looking at vehicle design including intelligent speed assistance, mirror and interior design. In addition, they provide an incident support service with support staff that assist relatives of injured people and signpost people to support services. Finally, they have CIRAS (Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis System) where employees can confidentially report items that they may not feel confident in reporting to their line managers.

We now move from operator presentations to one from a manufacturer, in this case it is Mark Johnson from 21st Century Technology. He is introducing us to how we can connect buses to back office systems. The company operates in UK, France and Sweden where they supply CCTV, wi-fi and other on board systems to connect wirelessly via the IoT (Internet of Things). Basically this connects items together on the bus via this Internet connection and onwards to external infrastructure. Mark has presented a case study using Halton Transport as the instance for integrating items together such as the CCTV video streams data is stored in the cloud and it is possible to see the CCTV footage either live or before the bus comes back to the depot.

One more presentation to come before we go to a panel session followed by lunch…

Ticketing breakout session

Craig Waters – Editor, Intelligent Transport

The Ticketing & Intermodality breakout session was chaired by Mark Cartwright of RTIG, and the first presentation came from Stephen Rhodes at TfGM who spoke about popular multi-operator get-me-there smart products to encourage seamless and easy travel.

Then Bob Montgomery from Stagecoach UK took to the stage to cover details about the importance of partnership working for delivering multi-operator smart ticketing across the UK. Bob was also hopeful that we will see a single back-office contactless ticketing scheme on all urban UK buses by 2022.

Aaron Ross from VIX Technology then gave an interesting presentation about the development of message-based platforms for booking travel tickets and his opinion that this option might replace the usual travel-apps in the future.

The final speaker of the breakout session was from Jeremy Wiggin at Norfolk County Council with a positive case-study look at how Norfolk has introduced successful smart ticketing and passenger information technology to improve services.

A panel discussion concluded the session which focused on scheduling and service design and raised questions such as what operators and authorities want developed, and what have IT providers got planned for the future?

10:49: Mobile app for Ireland

Miki Szikszai (try saying that after a few drinks), CEO of Snapper Services, is taking us through the LEAP app that Snapper have developed for the Irish National Transport Authority. Previously, travel had been via a smart card but these are rapidly being replaced by mobile phone based systems.
A new system went live in Republic of Ireland early this year – the system is multi-modal.  Top ups are possible through variety of sources, retailers, vending machines, online etc. Being New Zealand based, Snapper have partnered with an Irish company to give 24/7 support.

Transport Authorities are not normally known for either understanding or introducing rapidly changing electronic solutions, they normally look for consistency which does not happen in this fast changing market.

Chair of session has now changed to Brendan Finn, transport consultant with ETTS. He is introducing Ciarán de Búrca,  Chartered Engineer at Northern Irish Department for Infrastructure, Transport Projects Division. He’s going to tell us about the Belfast  Rapid Transit system, 40% of Belfast citizens do not have access to a car. Belfast will spend a total of £90million on the project, having to procure rapid transit vehicles and a new depot. They need a new ticketing system which will link to the wider Translink ticketing system. Vehicles are being built by Van Hool of Belgium which look like Wrightbus streetcars; as the citizens really wanted a tram rather than a bus. The city already has plans for the extension of the BRT system in both North & South of the city centre.

Geert Van Hecke of Van Hool is talking about their new project, the Tram Bus, again it looks like the Wrightbus streetcar. The vehicle was designed to look good so that it would attract passengers, it has four doors to assist fast load/unload times. They already have a 24 metre vehicle in service in Metz in France. The driver sits in separate cab similar to a tram driver, they also have buses in use in Barcelona. All of the vehicles are designed to be sustainable and the main thrust is in electric power but with alternates such as trolley buses and hydrogen power.

Next up is Josep Mension of TMB (Transport Metropolitan de Barcelona) – he is discussing the recasting of the bus system in the city. Intelligent Transport has already reported on this via one of my earlier blogs.

10:02: Pauline Bruge from UITP is speaking about the business case for standardisation and specifically the latest ZeEUS project. She is showing the research landscape since 2008 and the first focus is on vehicle IT  architecture as there is a requirement for data to be handled on the vehicle. It is clear that on board IT requires  lots of different systems, antenas etc. so there is a case for standard hardware interfaces, communication protocols etc. is a website for the association of a group of companies working on the standardisation process. is a further standardisation project working with TfL.

Now we’re looking at ZeEUS project which is working on electrification of public transport. Standardisation of charging connections for vehicles is a key point for operators and manufacturers main goal is to achieve an Europe standard by 2019.

09:52: Panel is introducing themselves and their organisations. Now we’re starting to look at how current partnerships are working. Stephen Joseph says in one part of the Country there was some sort of collusion in decline between Local Authority officers and bus operators where passenger group were forced to advertise major changes in routes because no one else was telling them.

Stephen Fidler was asked if instead of telling people what to do was there an approach to give public transport authorities powers to better plan transport  in their areas. Regulatory model in regards to information was seen as key, passengers  want ease of access to data to enable them to plan journey.

Now hearing about Arriva’s bus app and how it is being used by their passengers.

Questions are now being welcomed from the floor to the panel…

Q: What sort of open data are we talking about? Fares data, relative vehicle location, arrival time at stop etc – A lot of that data is available but there are gaps in useful information the bill is trying to bring a consistency to the piece.

Q: There is a problem with funding to Local Authorities for bus services, will this bring more subsidy?

09:08: Our next speaker is Marc ShimplingLegal Director at Osborne Clarke LLP who is taking us through the bus services bill. He is telling about the direction of travel and setting the scene for a later panel session.

In Manchester 80% of journey are by bus but, regulation has served the bus industry poorly. This new bill  is a major piece of legislation just for the bus industry. We’re starting by looking at the Transport Act 1985 which introduced deregulation to the bus industry, except in London where Transport  for London (TfL)  is responsible for transport provision.

Now we’re looking at whether the TfL model could be extended outside London but is it affordable with heavy subsidies. Marc has now moved on to look at alternative methods of operating buses.

There are three key areas that the bill focuses on:
1. Open data
2. New partnerships
3. Franchising – this honours the devolution deal commitments

Marc will shortly  be joined by Stephen Joseph of Campaign for Better Transport and Stephen Fidler from Department for Transport  and Arriva Manchester discuss the bill in more detail.

08:49: Good morning from Manchester where the European Bus Forum has started. Our first speaker is Dr Jon Lamonte, CEO of Transport  for Greater  Manchester who is giving us an opening view of public transport in the Manchester area.

Related organisations