Main conclusions of the interview with Rafael Barbadillo, president of CONFEBUS

The president of the National Committee for Road Transport and CONFEBUS, Rafael Barbadillo , analyzed a few days ago the state of this sector. After two years of economic crisis due to the pandemic caused by the coronavirus, it augurs a hopeful future . The objective is to recover users and income through challenges such as digitization or decarbonization. Here are the highlights of this interview.

Current state of the bus sector

Faced with this question, Barbadillo affirms that, since the summer of 2021, the sector has been recovering from the consequences that the pandemic has left behind. However, he stresses that the sixth wave has done a lot of damage, as activity fell ten points in all services.

For this reason, the Madrid businessman thinks that the aid from the Administration is essential, such as the extension of the ERTE and the ICO credits. It is necessary to wait for the negotiations that are going to take place between the social agents and the Government, where the transition from the COVID ERTE to new temporary employment regulation files will be finalized. Therefore, the sector is at the expense of these agreements.

As far as ICO credits are concerned, the Government has extended the request period for guarantee lines . In addition, it has allowed the extension of the repayment terms and the measures to reduce debt to be negotiated. This clearly benefits the bus sector , as it allows the negative economic effects of COVID to be alleviated to a certain extent.

Apart from this, the president of CONFEBUS points out that another series of direct aid is being requested for the companies in order to compensate for the concession contracts. The activity offered by this sector is an essential public service and aid has been received, although it has never been enough. However, discretionary transport, the most neglected part, has not obtained anything, except for some specific aid from some autonomous communities.

Confidence in the recovery of tourism

Barbadillo believes that the prospects for this year 2022 are quite positive , although he is quite cautious, since the expectations of last year were truncated by the successive waves of the pandemic.

On the other hand, it indicates that companies also have this optimistic view, although they are aware that they will not be able to resist the same situation for longer than these last two years. Another new problem that is added is the increase in the price of energy . Diesel has had increases of more than 30% and gas of 300%.

In this sense, those companies that have made significant investments in measures that favor the environment are being terribly penalized. To avoid these losses, a revision of the tariffs has been requested due to the rise in energy prices .

Finally, Rafael Barbadillo refers to the situation in Portugal, a country in which direct aid has already been launched so that companies can withstand these increases.

Public transport promotion campaign

On this subject, he indicates that something went unnoticed , since, although it was launched in November in various advertising media, the budget was very limited. In addition, he hopes that this campaign will be resumed after the end of the sixth wave. There is still plenty of time to recover the number of travelers that the sector had before the pandemic, which is why he considers this promotion to be essential.

Regarding the new lines in the railway sector, he comments that they are affecting the market niche of buses. For him, it is essential that the Government has an intermodal vision when talking about transport . The bus is suffering from a constant bloodletting of passengers compared to high-speed lines.

Nor does it forget the fact that there are railway lines that are totally empty, so this whole issue should be reconsidered. He believes that the Administration should focus its obligations in a different way and help a sector that is being greatly affected.

CONFEBUS message to the sector for the future

The first thing that the president of the National Committee for Road Transport highlights is that it is a sector that will continue to be viable . In addition to the aid that the Administration must offer in relation to ERTEs, ICO credits and promotion campaigns, several internal changes must be made to improve the situation.

In his opinion, one of its great shortcomings is digitization . In this sense, he affirms that it is possible to propose a large number of actions that would bring many benefits. For example, launching a common ticket sales platform for all of Spain or using loyalty cards.

Another series of measures will also be taken to promote the use of collective transport . These initiatives, together with decarbonisation and the new active safety measures that all buses are beginning to have, will ensure that the sector fully recovers. In the new scenario that arises for mobility, the bus will be a main actor.

Finally, although he clarifies that bus transport has a bright future ahead, he stresses that it must evolve. Of course, it has great businessmen who are very clear that this must happen and will do everything in their power to achieve it.

With the aid system that the Government is going to implement, this sector has a guaranteed future, as highlighted by Rafael Barbadillo, president of CONFEBUS , in his interview. In addition, the new active safety systems, digitization campaigns, decarbonization and low emission zones will contribute to this. As you have seen, after these two tough years of the COVID pandemic, it seems that the bus sector will move forward and become very important in our country.