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As CEO for almost eight years, Brieuc De Meeûs knows what needs to be done to keep our cities moving.
Like many other international companies, UITP is itself living through a period of change as we adjust to the new normal brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Throughout these changes, the smooth and steady leadership of UITP remains in place.
And now we’re expanding on that leadership by welcoming Mr De Meeûs as ournew Deputy President, joining UITP President Pere Calvet and UITP Secretary General Mohamed Mezghani at the top of our association.
In a career spanning over three decades, Brieuc De Meeûs has held a variety of positions across various sectors – from Project Manager and Project Director, to General Manager and CEO.
Educated at the College du Christ Roi and the ECAM Brussels Engineering School, Mr De Meeûs has held top level managing positions in large companies, ultimately leading him to become CEO of STIB-MIVB, the public transport operator of Brussels, in September 2012.
Mr Meeûs knows what leadership looks like – and we can’t wait to get to know more about our new Deputy President and hear all about his career, his hopes for his new role at UITP, and how he continues to lead the STIB through the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
Before we meet our new Deputy President, we’d like to offer a huge thank you to our outgoing Deputy President Ian Dobbs for his service to UITP and his ongoing dedication to advancing public transport around the world!
“The leader must be present, but also that he applies the same precautionary rules as the others…”
Q: Mr De Meeûs, congratulations on your appointment as the new Deputy President of UITP. How do you feel about beginning your new role during such as important time in our sector?
I’m taking on this role at a crucial moment not only for our sector, but also for UITP itself. To start with, our sector is set to go through some very complicated times in the coming months, and each player within it will sooner or later be confronted with funding problems or even – and I obviously hope that this will not be the case – with a situation in which the survival of the sector may be called into question. The challenge facing us is, therefore, a serious one. I believe that many authorities and governments have understood this and are aware of the central role that public transport plays in prosperity for all and in the relaunching of our economies. The sector will, therefore, need strong support from governments and authorities in order to ride out this unfortunate situation and to assure its essential mission in our societies. At a time when its activity is more indispensable and essential than ever, UITP has entered a period during which the consequences of the crisis, particularly the financial ones, could make its operation more complicated than ever. Many of our organisation’s sources of funding have dried up since the start of the crisis and activities have been cancelled or postponed. Even though the situation is not immediately critical, we must ensure that we can guarantee the funding of all UITP activities today and tomorrow. In these unprecedented circumstances, both rigour and agility will be our best friends.
Q: As CEO of STIB-MIVB, how have you found the experience of navigating the operator through the coronavirus pandemic?
Since the beginning of the crisis, I’ve frequently been repeating within the company that we’re at the start of a marathon. At this point in time, we’ve only run the first few miles of this long and difficult ordeal that we likely didn’t expect.
Here too, I have to acknowledge that the huge levels of agility, energy and rigour of the company’s management, combined with everyone’s desire to safeguard the public service, have enabled us to overcome the various obstacles we encountered in a satisfactory manner. But it’s far from over, and we’ll still need all our strength to get through it. For executives such as myself, it’s a complex crisis that requires us to constantly make the best decisions possible in a sometimes very uncertain environment, while simultaneously saving our strength. This crisis bears almost no resemblance, for example, to the crisis STIB had to face in March 2016 during the terrorist attacks in the Brussels metro.
“Our future will be brighter than ever, and I am certain that our contribution to the transformation of the world in many areas, including social and environmental, will be decisive for the future of humanity.”
Q: UITP has been very active during the COVID-19 outbreak, releasing publications, opinion pieces, news articles, Factsheets, interviews, webinars and more, to continue advocating for the sector. How important is it for STIB-MIVB to be part of UITP’s global membership?
STIB has been a loyal and particularly active member of UITP for many decades. And it will continue to be, because ever since becoming a member of UITP, we’ve certainly been able to contribute to the association. More importantly, however, we’ve been able to take advantage of the huge benefits brought to us by UITP in all the areas it deals with, including news, training, sharing experience and expertise, advocating for the sector, etc. We are proud at STIB to be a part of this deeply respected, extremely strong and influential association.
Q: What do you think the future holds for the public transport sector once we come out of the other side of the coronavirus pandemic?
Our future will be brighter than ever, and I am certain that our contribution to the transformation of the world in many areas, including social and environmental, will be decisive for the future of humanity. In the shorter term and generally speaking, we will, I believe, return to our pre-crisis growth levels within two years after the end of the pandemic. Governments will resume (if they haven’t maintained) their multiple investments in public transport, driven by the urgent need to transform cities and countries, and pushed firmly by the rising generations that expect and aspire to nothing less. I am very optimistic for public transport, particularly if we are all able to offer a service of such a quality, at an acceptable cost, that the modal shift to public transport becomes a natural one.
Q: What do you hope to achieve during your tenure as Deputy President? What are you most looking forward to?
First of all, I want to make sure that UITP emerges strong from this long crisis, and secondly, that it retains its place in the world as a leading association for public transport, through the excellent quality of its services and work, and by superbly defending the interests of each of its members. Today, we have a great team behind the organisation and exceptional members who have always supported us and carried us forward. Together, we’ll be even stronger tomorrow.
Q: And finally, what has been the most important piece of advice you’ve been given during your career?
I would like to mention two: first and foremost, nothing is ever the work of a single person, it’s always by working together that we achieve the greatest things. And secondly: never give up.
Thank you to Mr. De Meeûs for his time and his words!
“Nothing is ever the work of a single person, it’s always by working together that we achieve the greatest things.”