editorial | ignition
It’s been a jam-packed month for the industry and a great turn-out for the Australasia Bus Conference in Cairns. Oz can be harsh for bus operators, but it’s also thriving!
How tough are ‘Aussie driving conditions’ when it comes to new vehicles handling the rigours of it? A lot tougher than many of us think they are. Editor Cotter ponders just what’s needed to cut it Down Under.
“Out on the patio, we’d sit. And the humidity, we’d sneeze.
“Doo doo dodo dododo, crack over cane fields,
“Laugh and think, this is, Australia–errrr…” – (or something like that?)
Gangabang? Why does the name Gangabang come to mind? Anyway, whatever it was that triggered that song off in my head, it seems mightily appropriate given where I am right now, which has imbued me with an even greater appreciation of the big brown land we happenen to be living on, this side of the planet.
Ah, sugar cane! That’s it! That was the trigger, I’m sure.
You see, by the time you read this, many of you – like me – will have returned home to our distant humble abodes somewhere else in Australia or New Zealand (our possibly even further afield; I’m sure I heard the odd British twang and American slang during the past few days), having participated in the inaugural 2018 BIC/BCANZ Australasia Bus Conference, held October 7–10 in Cairns, Queensland.
Talk about ‘Beautiful one day, perfect the next’ clichés. I mean, I get it now. Like, really get it. And while the land of Her Majesty is a big ol’ town through pure geographical size at the best of times, and while surely that means not all the State could be that blissful and disturbingly chirpy 365 days of the year, way up north in Cairns I get the feeling they go pretty close. And just like that … I’m a fan.
This year’s national bus industry conference was the first time it was jointly held by both Australia’s Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) and its Kiwi counterpart, the Bus & Coach Association of New Zealand (BCANZ). And what an amazing success it was – and still is (it’s still going on right now technically while I’m here typing away on deadline at 5.26am in my hotel room - with days of coffee abuse and sleep deprivation finally cancelling each other out and the latter smugly kicking in).
That is, without giving away too many industry trade secrets willy-nilly, I recall only a few weeks ago hearing the number of delegates who had registered back then and the number that would be calculated to eventually (read: hopefully) sign up before the whole shebang kicked off. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t close to the final numbers of 750+ attendees or so that I heard being bandied about from start to finish at the event. And it looked it. Yep, it’s been a cracker!
In layman’s terms, that’s a great sign for the industry both here and across the bathtub in NZ, and is an awesome representation of what can be achieved by working together.
I mean, I know I keep annoyingly banging on about tourism and travel and what our region offers – and how with all these young backpackers to older mid-life crisis travellers and even greyer ‘getaway-ers’ we should give them some sort of ‘Down Under tour card’ where they earn points and get discounts the more they do and see while here and stuff – but it’s kind of how we have to present ourselves as a package deal. Not so much let them think they have worked out where they want to go or have some travel agent put that spin on it.
Why us? Well, even though we are just a part of the transient transport system they would probably use to visit whatever and wherever, only on buses – specifically coaches – do you get the best mobile social unit conversations and connections to be made and new friendships to create. Sure you can strike up a chat on trains or in cabs and share cars, but only on a coach can you move big groups of people in a happy travel mental space and get them to where trains can’t or where cars fail on capacity to do so.
THE PEOPLE YOU MEET
While at the conference it also got me thinking about the term ‘in Australian conditions’. It’s indeed thrown about in the automotive and commercial vehicle world
“ONE OPERATOR … CONFIRMS THAT HITTING 15 ROOS A NIGHT IS NOT UNCOMMON.”
as a badge of honour when it comes to what a car or truck or bus can do, but I get the feeling we might be underestimating and overplaying it, depending on what our ultimate objective might be. So, buy product X because it goes well in ‘Australian conditions’, but in some places those conditions are wayyyy worse than you might think or even know.
Speaking with some bus operators, I was – as were others amongst them – shocked to hear of both the magnitude
of what ‘roo strikes’ could do to a bus or truck ( yeah, even with a bullbar) and just how often they happen. One operator – and I can’t say the route as you’d figure them out that way – confirms that hitting 15 roos a night is not uncommon and road trains are “mowing down hundreds”.
My point is, granted not every bus or coach sold will be used in such environments, but with the repair and time cost you’d be up for in Whoop-Whoop wherever, you’d kind of really want to know what ‘Australian conditions’ truly meant before you – or your bus or coach – find out the hard way.
PUT THIS BABY TO BED
In this issue there’s … well … let’s just say it’s all happening. It really has been a full-on month with loads of cool ‘busie’ things taking place.
On the cover, whooska! Scania has banked on some people’s love of all things OEM and used its JV with China-based Higer to deliver Oz its Scania Touring luxury coach.
It was a great launch event in Port Douglas (coincidentally ;) ) before the Cairns show and it really set the tone for understanding what they want to achieve with it. We tried to capture some of the shenanigans at the back in our ‘society pages’ (love it) this issue.
Next we check out the massive effort needed to get buses ready for the Sydney Metro rail-replacement Station Link project, and also catch up with BusVic president Dom Sita and check out his Kastoria Buslines operation.
We finally get around to checking out the Canberra Summits earlier this year – yep, ‘my bad’ - which were great. And we also visit Logan Coaches and take a King Long 6130 out for a cheeky spin.
In terms of supply lines, this issue we have a quick short look at bus bodies and who’s who and what’s out there, plus we also visit Canberra-based Murray’s Sydney depot for the latest BCI luxury coach delivery. It’s got the latest ZF transmission (first in Oz) and a stack of other clever goodies on it, so check that too!
Other than that, sleep calls. For me, anyway. I’ve had so much coffee these past few days that Colombian sniffer dogs are looking at me weird. Or maybe they always just look that way when they are holidaying in Cairns, too. ;)
Oh, and I think this is the last month of our super-cool HSV SportCat 4x4 promotion, so it’s not too late to enter the draw for the chance to win it today. Subscribe to your favourite bus magazine ABC for even more entries into it. Hey, if you aren’t in it you can’t win it, right? (or something like that LOL).
Anyway, as the Brits say: ‘Layt-erz’. Until the next thrilling instalment…