BUSWORLD 2023: First Impressions

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A selection of vehicles was parked outside, against the backdrop of Brussels’ famous Atomium. JONATHAN WELCH

Jonathan Welch presents some first impressions of Busworld Europe 2023, held in Brussels from 7-12 October. Look out for a full review next week

After a four-year break, Busworld Europe returned to Brussels Expo from 7 to 12 October, with hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of visitors from around the globe, not to mention the press, descending on the Belgian capital to see the best of what the coach and bus industry has to offer. The name of the event is apt, as not just does it draw in visitors from around the world, but the vast sphere of vehicles, products, conferences and awards, not to mention the networking and social opportunities including a swanky gala dinner, really do cover the whole world of coach and bus.

The vehicles are of course a focus, though suppliers small and large are just as vital to the industry, and they were in no short supply this year; to report on all of them would take a book. In this issue, we’ll take a look at a small pick of some of the vehicles launched or unveiled at the event, including the Yutong U11DD, probably the one product at the show that all UK eyes will be watching with interest. A first look of that vehicle appears on pages 16-18.


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Notable by their absence were many of the ‘big name’ major UK manufacturers, though EVM, Ilesbus and Mellor were all present, the latter displaying exclusively left-hand drive products in a conscious decision to appeal to the European market. UK-based suppliers, as well as those with an extensive UK presence, were also in evidence, including familiar names such as Cummins, Camira, Optibus and Pailton Engineering, which was showing off its latest multi-adjustable steering column designs, along with many more; there were over 520 stands to peruse, in fact.


In Martin Curtis’ feature in this issue, he speaks about vehicle producers seeking to maximise passenger loads, and the rise in consciousness of economy of operation in the bus sector in the 1950s. The same is true now, and with this year’s event featuring far more electric buses than ever before, lightweighting was one of the key themes outlined by many manufacturers when presenting their products, none more so than Ebusco with its

The variety of bus interiors on display had one thing in common: all were light, airy and modern. JONATHAN WELCH

composite bodywork, as well as EVM which is seeing success with its own composite minibus bodies.

The event is not just about the vehicles and suppliers, and a range of conferences and discussions were offered to participants throughout the week addressing key industry issues, including a three-day ZEB Conference, a driver safety seminar, a roundtable to discuss the industry-wide driver shortage, conferences on digital mobility and the future of coach tourism in Europe, plus the grand inauguration gala dinner and other networking events hosted by many of the companies attending.

Familiar names in the UK market such as Daimler and Van Hool sat alongside less well known ones whose presence, especially in the electric bus market, and to a lesser extent in coaches, is rapidly growing to challenge the existing European names. Solaris displayed two examples of its Urbino 18 articulated bus; the company has gained ground rapidly in the European marketplace over the last decade or two, whilst other manufacturers are positioning themselves to do the same. Karsan, Otokar, BMC, Mellor, Skoda, the revamped Ikarus and newcomers like Automecanica were among those which presented what looked to be competent electric buses for the left-hand drive marketplace. The large Chinese presence too was notable, with Golden Dragon, Higer, King Long and Zhongtong among those joining Yutong and BYD; time will tell how many of those see the relatively small UK market as a viable one.

Coaching not forgotten

The coach sector was not forgotten, with many impressive and expensive-looking vehicles on display from the familiar shapes of Beulas, Irizar, Setra, Scania, Van Hool or Yutong sitting alongside new and unusual coaches from the likes of JBM, Geyushi and King Long, and the impressive Marcopolo double-decker with its 2+1 first class seating layout which attracted much positive comment.

Both Irizar and Scania had new energy vehicles on display, Irizar’s hydrogen-fuelled i6s Efficient integral making its début on the manufacturer’s stand, whilst Scania showed off an LBG/LNG version of the i6s on its stand. With a range of up to 1,000km and a refill time of 20 minutes, the hydrogen-fuelled i6s looks like a viable alternative for many operators once the infrastructure network is in place to support it, whilst the Scania gas-fuelled coach could also fill a valuable need in the coaching sector as operators move to lower- and ultimately zero-emission solutions. In next week’s issue, we’ll take a closer look at these and more, with a full round-up of the vehicles and products on show at Europe’s biggest coach and bus event.

For now, we present some impressions of the event and the vast array of vehicles and products on show.

Daimler Buses latest Setra S 515 LE. JONATHAN WELCH
There was also a light-hearted side to the event, with wandering artists performing around the halls, including this four-piece band named De Vierkante Meter, translating as ‘the square metre’, fitting three musicians and a singer onto a wheeled trolley. In the background, the new electric bus from Romanian builder Automecanica attracted much interest during the event. JONATHAN WELCH