By: Fabian Cotter, Photography by: Paul Aldridge, Ben Hosking + courtesy Volgren

Is this short-term pain now with long-term gain ahead? Given new bus product, tech and players soon to hit our shores, for the bus world it is.

In this issue of ABC magazine 396 we chat exclusively to Marcopolo and Volgren about their near 10-year relationship in Oz - and much more...

Two hundred metres, easy. I saw this chap pottering towards me at night while I was out jogging, recently. Well, that’s a lie – it was more a slow walkie-shuffle thing from me, but I was out of breath and near heart-attack stage I think, so that’s got to count for some kind of health kick, I reckon, right?

Anyway, as we shuffled closer towards each other from respective uphills to ‘down the hills’, I noticed something unusual about this ‘medium collar’ office-type fellow as he approached in the distance: he was wearing a white mask.

To be clear, when I say unusual I mean pre-virus-topsy-turvy times. Now, of course, without a mask in some places it’s considered a crime against humanity, so with many of us ‘following the bouncing ball across the bottom of the TV screen’ just to help ease things up a bit even if we are unsure of their effectiveness and such, masks are a common sight.

But at 10.00pm in the leafy-green ‘burbs with absolutely no-one else but us two that happened to be on the same street, I still found it weird.

Closer and closer still, our paths would eventually pass. Like two ocean liners silently passing in the starry night, it was a close call but at least twice the advocated 1.5 metres social distancing we are told.


What got me was this: from that distance, time of night and stillness of breeze (and no, I didn’t get my Inspector Gadget pocket wind chimes out to tell), this guy could have easily run faster than the virus can waft around I’d have thought or – and get this – just crossed the road to totally avoid me. Simple, really.

That is, if you see me coming well in advance, even with like 25 metres to go, just cross the road, so why the mask in such a situation?

Other close-contact situations in shops or whatever, different deal and I’m sure everyone has their take on that, but when there’s ‘mega social distance’ and just two people outdoors on a still night, I just found it weird.

Ultimately, as he passed – a late-30s chap with briefcase in hand and semi-casual corporate clothes on – I got to see his face, or at least the top part. The worried furrowed brow and the stressed-out eyes just said one thing: fear!

Hmmm… With all that’s going on and the media focus doggedly being on those who don’t wear masks, I’m hoping there’s equal attention shone on those who do yet whose mental states are disturbingly impacted in such a way that mere common-sense is almost heresy. Because it’s common-sense that always will be needed from all sides and interpretations of this pandemic.

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At the time of print, some key bus developments have occurred. Firstly, as part of the Western Australia government’s statement this week endorsing hydrogen use, mining giant Fortescue has announced new player Hyzon will be supplying its coach transport needs with hydrogen fuel-cell buses instead of diesel-powered ones. Early days for the tech, but a big move nonetheless.

Secondly, Bustech has announced a partnership with North American electric bus giant Proterra to collaboratively make e-buses for the local Australian market.

We’ll have more about these next issue.



Inside this issue, ABC magazine No. 396 we take a good look in our coverstory at the now even deeper connection between iconic Aussie bus builder Volgren and its modern-day parent company Marcopolo, as the pair nears its 10-year anniversary together.

Much thanks to all involved to make it happen and these things are all the more difficult to arrange and sort out when it’s a global mix of emails and different time zones, etc.

The companies share so much in common in terms of quality and innovative bus design and construction, yet are different enough at times to learn from – and benefit from – each other. We hope you enjoy that one.

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In terms of operator profiling – and although it took a while to get out and massive apologies for it – we visit Red Bus Services on the NSW Central Coast to talk generations of bus family business and how this insanely weird pandemic situation has affected the Red Bus team of late.

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Getting behind the wheel finally of the new BCI-Merc ‘Cruiser’ coach - which we first featured on our cover in November, 2019 – Paul Aldridge takes one for a spin down in lovely Melbourne to let us know how she handles on the road and how it feels in the hot seat. Another one we snuck in just before the first lockdown, so please don’t freak out about no masks and social distancing and whatnot. Muchas gracias…

From what we learned, the collaborative effort between BCI and Mercedes-Benz hasn’t just produced one great-looking Euro-style coach, but one that’s a real pleasure to drive, too.


And in our In Focus sections it’s good see the beautifully refurbished Bus 80 finally on display in Gatton in Queensland – at least until a new Brisbane-based home is finalised for her to be publically viewed – plus we update you on some new equipment, new product and expansion at Custom Denning’s Sydney premises.

And finally it’s great news hearing that a BusNSW safety initiative is sharing in some federal government funding, while there’ll be more buses on the road in South-east Queensland thanks to social distancing, plus Kinetic’s acquisition of NZ’s Go Bus is finally complete.


That’s pretty much it for the month, dear party people, as 2020 rolls on opening up multiple Pandora’s Boxes at once it seems and dealing out all sorts of juju from its unforseen bag of tricks.

Bring back the ‘old world’, I say – or at least never ever forget it and ensure you tell your kids and their kids about it. If they know ‘what it was’ then they’ll ‘know where to look’. Or something like that, anyway. ;)

Until the next thrilling instalment…

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