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EU launches major bus project in Rome

The EBSF project will see new vehicle and infrastructure concepts as well as new energy, operational and public information schemes in some of Europe's most important cities, including Rome, Gothenburg, Madrid, Bremerhaven, Nantes and others.

The EBSF launch meeting © Peter Gutierrez
Rome welcomes EBSF launch
© Peter Gutierrez

Speaking at the official project launch in Rome on 4 September 2008, European Commission Vice-President responsible for transport Antonio Tajani said, “This is an exciting project for more than one reason. First, it brings together some of the biggest public transport operators and manufacturers in Europe, important organisations that have never worked together before. But it is also bringing European institutions into direct contact with local authorities in a way that hasn't been seen, closing the gap between today's European urban public and the Union."

Research on a new scale

Antonio Tajani © Peter Gutierrez
Antonio Tajani
© Peter Gutierrez

The EBSF project (European Bus System of the Future) is one of the largest surface transport initiatives ever funded by the EU, with a total budget of about €26 million under the Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7). Its aim is to conceive and develop an innovative, high-quality bus system, including breakthrough vehicle designs, infrastructure and operational concepts.

"System is the key word," said EBSF project coordinator Umberto Guida of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP). "This project will aim to improve the urban bus system as a whole. To do this we'll need the help of all the leading players in the urban transport sector, and that's exactly what we have. Those important organisations that are not members of the project consortium per se will also be consulted and will contribute during important validation and dissemination phases."

Umberto Guida © Peter Gutierrez
Umberto Guida
© Peter Gutierrez

"A lot of factors have come together to make this project happen," said European Commission Project Officer Patrick Mercier-Handisyde. "And it takes place in the context of some key policy initiatives, including the EU Green Paper on Urban Mobility and the Union's developing environment policy. What we are looking for now is a common approach. This is not just a technical project. It is also a crucial step in the development of a common and inclusive European Research Area, an important experiment in teamwork, new management approaches and co-operation."

More than meets the eye

UITP Secretary-General Hans Rat put EBSF in perspective. "It is impossible to overstate the importance of this project," he said. "At a time when so many issues are at play – environmental concerns, increasing demands for mobility, increasing congestion and global competition. Now, more than ever, we need to work together to be strong competitors and to stay at the forefront of research and development."

Patrick Mercier-Handisyde © Peter Gutierrez
Patrick Mercier-Handisyde
© Peter Gutierrez

Along with developing new bus technologies and concepts, maintaining or improving the competitive position of European bus manufacturers and operators is a stated goal of the EBSF project. The work programme also includes a major push to improve the image and increase the attractiveness of bus transport in cities, concentrating on state-of-the-art cleaner, safer and more comfortable vehicle solutions.