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Coaching Cuba in public transport

By Xinhua in Havana | China Daily | Updated: 2016-09-26 08:05

Yutong's 5,890 buses have transformed the Castro-led Caribbean country socio-economically

A young Cuban professor who commutes over 20 km every day from her home in western Havana to the city's downtown has witnessed a dramatic change in the public transport system that has troubled the Carribean country's people for decades.

Maylin Orta, 32, has to catch two buses or "guaguas," as the locals call them, to get to work in a commute that used to take her up to four hours.

"In those years, I used to study at the University of Havana and would have to catch the bus at 4 am to be in time for the start of classes at 8 am. Those were very hard times for our country's public transport system," Orta said.

 Coaching Cuba in public transport

An employee works on the production line of Yutong Bus' plant in Zhengzhou, Henan province. Li Bo / Xinhua


However, this has all changed thanks to China's Yutong buses, which are becoming an increasing presence in Cuba. It all started with the arrival of 12 made-in-China Yutong buses in 2005.

Months later, 1,000 additional Yutong buses reached the Carribean island and made a difference to Orta and millions of other Cubans all over the island.

The main cities in Cuba are all connected by outdated roads, and the transport system is solely based on bus routes. The country does not have subway systems or high-speed trains.

In Havana, long city routes are covered by Yutong buses designated by the letter "P." The buses have eased the demand for an effective public transport system.

Yutong has also had a positive impact on Cuban society, thanks to the quality, comfort and competitive prices of its buses and their adaptation to this Caribbean nation's standard.

"Currently, there are 5,890 Yutong buses in Cuba used for many purposes. Last year, 1,500 units, both assembled buses and chassis, were sold, surpassing $10 million in contracts signed with different Cuban state-owned companies," said Wang Tong, sales manager of the Chinese firm in Havana.

Over 20 bus models have been introduced to the island since 2005 and currently nine prototypes of Yutong buses are sold to Cuba, which is considered by the Chinese company as one of its main markets in Latin America along with Venezuela and Chile.

The tourism industry, which is the main source of revenue for Cuba, has also benefited from the cooperation with the Chinese brand with comfortable coaches enabling inter-city transfers.

Wang also said that in 2014, Yutong started to sell small bus chassis to a Cuban company in order to contribute to the local industry.

A joint venture between Yutong and the state-owned CAISA, a bus-maker, is a possibility, and could supply Cuba's provinces and small towns with comfortable coaches.

"This is a way to help Cuba develop its transport system and at the same time provide technology transfer. For us, this is a great challenge and acknowledgement of the high value the Cuban government has for our work here since 2005," Wang said.

In 2014, over 930 chassis were sold to CAISA to be assembled with Yutong parts and pieces. The product is a small bus, known as "Diana," which seeks to meet the demand for public transportation all over the island.

"This year, we'll assemble in Cuba 650 buses after a quarter century without producing a single unit in the nation," said Enrique Martinez, CAISA's general manager.

The local company, located in the town of Guanajay, just 50 km southwest of Havana, has one production line of small buses. Each bus has a seating capacity of up to 35 passengers. At the same time, Yutong advisers work along with their Cuban counterparts to uphold the Chinese company's standards.


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