Alexander Dennis targets Middle East bus market

UK bus maker prepares for high-level talks at MENA transport show

Senior management figures from Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) have arrived in Dubai for the MENA Transport Congress and Exhibition.

As part of its strategy to significantly increase activities in the Middle East’s public transport sector, the UK bus manufacturer is gearing up for high-level talks with industry representatives from across the region. ADL has also brought two of its biggest hitters to the Dubai show: the Enviro200 single-deck midi bus, and the Enviro500 double-decker bus.

Talking to CW, Colin Robertson, CEO of ADL, said: “There has been major investment in this region, particularly in terms of metro systems. Dubai Metro, for example, is phenomenal, and there are a whole series of others that are either under construction or that have been announced between now and 2020. However, a metro is only ever going to be as good as the feeder routes that support it.

“The Enviro200 is our entry-level, 9m-long midi bus, and can pretty much go anywhere, whilst the Enviro500, three-axle, high-capacity, double-decker bus sits at the other end of our product spectrum. These buses – logically – fit very nicely with metro and tram systems,” he added.

Robertson and his colleagues plan to use the trade show, which is currently taking place at Dubai World Trade Centre, as a platform to meet with transport representatives from across the Middle East. The manufacturer has already received significant interest from regional stakeholders, and is looking forward to displaying its models in the flesh.

“No doubt much of that interest is fuelled by the phenomenal success we have had with our three-axle, high-capacity double deck, which has secured orders in Asia for over 1,000 vehicles since its launch just over a year ago,” Robertson commented.

“As they say, the world is becoming smaller by the day, and in the bus industry, news travels fast. People want to see, feel, touch and climb aboard, so we have our double deck and midi bus – another global best-seller – on display in Dubai,” he added.

Whilst ADL might not be a household name in this region at present, the firm has a strong heritage in other major territories such as Europe, North America, and sections of Asia. As Robertson explained, he and his colleagues are confident that the bus maker’s history of research and development will provide it with an advantage in the Middle East's public transport sector.

“Alexander Dennis has been building with lightweight materials – particularly aluminium – since the late 1960s,” he told CW.

“Fuel has always been particularly expensive in the UK, so we were into lightweight, fuel-efficient vehicles before the issues of weight and fuel efficiency became as popular – if you like – as they have done during the last five years, when oil spiked at almost $150 per barrel,” Robertson explained.

Moreover, the ADL chief pointed out that his company has a number of geographical case studies that prove its products will operate effectively in the Middle East.

“We’ve been selling double-decker buses to Las Vegas since the early 2000s, so we know that one of these models will run at temperatures upwards of 50°C,” said Robertson.

“We’ve also been selling into Hong Kong since 1975. This is an area with high temperatures, high humidity, and huge passenger loads. ADL has enjoyed 40% to 50% of that market historically, and over the past two years, over 80%,” he added.

As part of the firm’s five-year strategy for growth, ADL’s senior management team has expanded the firm from a $250mn, UK-focused business to one three times the size, with manufacturing operations and partnerships in Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. The company also anticipates production opportunities in the Middle East.

As ADL’s international business development director, Robert Davey, explained: “Our success in terms of global expansion has been based on careful market research and customising vehicles that are already tried and tested in demanding transport operations. It is a formula that has proved successful to date, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t work in the Middle East territories.

“Our double deck is ideal for high capacity routes, while our midi bus is the perfect vehicle for feeder routes or for constrained operating environments that require a highly manoeuvrable, fuel efficient vehicle. Like all of our buses, they are designed with low floors and wide, easy-access doors, which is a great bonus for the elderly, infirm, or mothers with young children.

“At the end of the day, transport authorities want buses that are stylish, fit for purpose, bespoke for their operations, and have the lowest lifetime costs of ownership,” he concluded.

The MENA Transport Congress and Exhibition will continue until Wednesday 30 April 2014.

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