Brussels public transport company MIVB/STIB has offered 30 decommissioned buses to Cuba. It concerns 20 Van Hool A330 D1 buses and 10 Mercedes Citaro articulated buses. They are Euro 4 buses, which, under the low-emission zone (LEZ), are no longer allowed in the Brussels region from 1 January 2022.
According to the newspaper La Dernière Heure, the buses are currently waiting in the used car export terminal in the Port of Antwerp, in Beveren to be precise, before boarding a ship to Havana.
European cars that no longer meet emission standards are shipped out from here. Every year, for example, about a million European cars are shipped to West Africa, as a report by a VRT documentary made by De Nomaden and Rudy Vranckx, revealed last year. Even though this has a major impact on the health of the people there and on the environment.
MIVB/STIB’s gift to Cuba, however, is in a completely different context: in this way, the Brussels region finally honors a promise made to Cuba more than twenty years ago.
In 1999, the Brussels Region and Havana signed a framework cooperation agreement, which included a gift of buses. It was only last year, during the visit of Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort to Cuba, as part of the 16th edition of the “Semana Belga”, that the Cuban authorities reminded the socialist representative of the old Brussels promise.
The problem was that MIVB/STIB had already planned to sell the buses. In general, the company sells its decommissioned buses to a Dutch company specializing in up-cycling. This company then sells the buses to other countries where there is less awareness when it comes to issues such as the environment and safety.
In December, for example, there was some commotion because various Van Hool buses that once belonged to the MIVB/STIB were used as public transport in Morocco. It concerned 179 buses that could no longer drive in the Brussels LEZ-zone and that were sold to a local transport company.
In this case, the office of the Brussels Minister-President points out that these buses still run perfectly, that they were until recently on the streets of the capital region, and that in Cuba, “the car fleet is very old, and, therefore, very polluting”.
Even when scrapped in Brussels, these buses will play an active role in improving air quality in Cuba, the cabinet argues.
Greening of the MIVB/STIB fleet
MIVB/STIB must renew its fleet of buses that run on thermal engines because they will be banned from circulation in 2025 due to the LEZ. It concerns 411 diesel and 402 hybrid buses.
First, the 52 Euro 5 vehicles will be replaced in 2024; the 361 Euro 6 vehicles between 2028 and 2030. Finally, the 402 hybrid buses will be replaced between 2033 and 2036. Then, perhaps, hydrogen-powered buses will substitute them.
The first test runs of the hydrogen bus of MIVB/STIB were scheduled for September last year, but the test with passengers onboard has now been postponed until the summer.