30 decommissioned buses, originally used by the Brussels transport network STIB, are to be donated to the government of Cuba, according to La Dernière Heure, and confirmed to The Brussels Times by a STIB representative.
20 Van Hool A330 D1 buses and 10 Mercedes Citaro buses, banned from use in Brussels since January, are currently awaiting shipment from Antwerp to the Cuban capital city of Havana.
The buses run on Euro 4 (EC2005) standard diesel engines, which were produced between 2006-2011. The vehicles produce higher than currently accepted emissions and are unsuitable for use in Europe due to EU climate commitments.
The gift to the socialist nation was made within the framework of a 1999 cooperation agreement signed between the Brussels region and the city of Havana.
Rekindling an old partnership
Having been largely dormant for many years, the cooperation agreement was revived in 2021 during the visit of Brussels socialist Minister-President Rudi Vervoort to Cuba. Vervoort took part in the Belgian embassy's “Semana Belga” (Belgian week) celebrations, where Cuban officials reminded the local leader of promises Brussels made nearly 20 years ago.
Economic relations between the European Union and Cuba were normalised in Brussels in 2016, when Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla met with EU officials and officially relaunched a “dialogue and cooperation” deal between the two countries.
It is common practice for STIB to get rid of much of its decommissioned rolling stock, which it usually sells to upcycling companies in the Netherlands.
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Former STIB buses have been seen on the streets of Morocco. In 2021, 179 old Euro 3 standard buses were photographed on the streets of Berkane.
The Belgian buses are likely to appear alongside a fleet of nearly 8,000 Chinese buses which will replace Cuba’s ageing fleet of creaking “Guagua” buses. Venezuela also provides Cuba with newly made buses.
European nations mostly sell used buses to Cuba. According to Reuters, before 2008, it was not uncommon for old-stock buses with final destinations of “Rotterdam Zentrum” or “Milano Centrale” to appear on the Cuban streets.