A British bus industry-led project to support reconstruction in the regions most severely affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami on Dec. 26, 2004, will provide more than 100 vehicles to affected communities.
Executives associated with the annual Bus Industry Awards in the U.K. took the initiative in the days following the disaster and launched the Asia Bus Response appeal ( www.asiabusresponse.co.uk ) in an attempt to do something practical to help.
The project is partnering with international relief and development charity Islamic Relief, which is taking responsibility for shipping buses to Indonesia and Sri Lanka and arranging the necessary tax, registration and licensing for effective distribution and utilization.
Buses have been donated by large companies and small operators. National Express Group has internationalized the project by pledging 10 buses from its North American companies as well as six double-deck metro buses from its Travel West Midlands operator in England.
Small operators from both the private and municipal sectors have offered small and mid-sized buses, as well as double-decker vehicles. Oxfordshire County Council, for instance, is contributing two Volkswagen Transporter minibuses.
Some large groups are also donating money for high-floor, low-tech buses that can be operated effectively in tropical conditions.
“A lot of U.K. companies are upgrading to low-floor vehicles,” said Andrew Varley of Lancashire County Council, (LCC). “We are planning to ship out vehicles with several years’ life span.” The first consignment should arrive in the Indian Ocean area in April or May, and some of the larger bus groups may have additional vehicles available later in the year.
“We did not expect to get over 100 buses,” Varley said. “We have obtained supplies of spare parts for many of them, and these will be shipped on the vehicles along with other supplies, including medical and clothing donations. We are liaising with the [International Aid Trust] over that.”
Varley, who heads a group at LCC responsible for transport policy marketing and promotion of public transport, said most vehicles have come from the private sector partly because most vehicles operated by local authorities are leased.