5 questions for
We speak with Anna Grönlund, deputy managing director of Sveriges Bussföretag, the Swedish Bus and Coach Federation, about the role of biofuels in the bus industry, the impact of the pandemic, the future of e-buses and other exciting topics.
Over the past five to ten years the bus and coach industry in Sweden has changed dramatically. Today, around 90 per cent of Swedish public bus transport runs on fossil-free fuel. What are the main factors behind this – and how do you see future developments? Biogas, electrification, fuel cells? What are the main obstacles?
A wide-scale transformation in the Swedish bus and coach sector to sustainable and fossil-free public transport is feasible thanks to biofuels. While electric buses are being introduced in many regions, biofuels will continue to play an important role in the ongoing transformation. In Sweden we are therefore very worried about the negative attitude, in our view, of the European Commission and several EU member states to biofuels.
As everywhere, both the bus and coach industry and public transport were severely impacted during the pandemic. How would you summarise your experiences so far? And how will you work to minimise the long-term effects?
In Sweden, public life was in many respects relatively unrestricted throughout the entire pandemic. Buses were able to roll – but at the same time people were advised to undertake only essential travel. In practice this restricted business and it hit many of our member companies hard. The Swedish government has agreed general support for all affected companies and regions operating public transport, but not specifically for hard-hit bus and coach companies, something that we have criticised.
To win back old and new customers we must now work on making bus trips even more attractive. Investing in a bus-friendly infrastructure is of great importance here. When a bus is fast, comfortable and reaches its destination stress-free, many will choose a bus or coach for their trip. In that context, tailored measures such as the Bus Rapid Transit project and separate bus lanes are essential, as are tourist coach-friendly cities with barrier-free access and safe terminals etc.
From a bus operator´s perspective: how do you see the development of smart connected cities etc and the role of electrification?
Smart cities need public transport with buses and coaches. Many elements are already in place – data, vehicles that are ready for use, planning systems etc. Now we must make them work together, develop data sharing business models and present our customers with even more advanced and user-friendly products. From a global perspective electric buses are the future. In Sweden however, we assume that in the long term we will need to combine electricity and biofuels. And, before we forget it, a discussion is necessary on how to produce electricity in a truly sustainable way.
Who has the world's best bus concept? Maybe we should announce a global competition and film all the entries?
My favourite bus concept is Mettis from Metz in France. To see all those fantastic, colourful buses on the streets in this historical town makes me happy and proud to be a part of the bus and coach industry! A global competition for the best bus and/or coach concept would be great and inspire many local politicians and decision makers.
What is your view on investment in infrastructure for buses and coaches in Sweden, in comparison with rail as well? What is the attitude to long-distance coaches and private services compared with public bus transport?
As buses and coaches mainly use local and regional road networks, to get an overall picture we need to look at national investment in road and rail. I would like to quote Lena Erixon, who is currently stepping down as director general of the Swedish Transport Administration, who in an interview with a Swedish industry magazine said: "We can see that the funds we are receiving are not enough for the roads. There will unfortunately be a deterioration of the road network". I am concerned about what, with her vast knowledge, she is saying.
As regards access to and the services offered by coaches compared with public bus transport, I would say the conditions vary around Sweden. Some regions are trying very hard to get entire systems working, whereas other public transport authorities more or less oppose private coach services.