IRTE Skills Challenge: Bigger and better

Excitement is building ahead of the next edition of the IRTE Bus & Coach Skills Challenge, taking place in June 2024 in Bristol. John Challen looks at what’s new this year and why operators should pay attention to the competition

Just like any industry, the transport sector does not stand still. In the case of the IRTE Bus & Coach Skills Challenge, the evolution has been evident over the years and now the event takes things up a level with some innovations for 2024. This year, there are new collaborations, a new test for participants and a greater degree of respect from industry peers.

Now into its 12th year, the Skills Challenge is, in 2024, welcoming Freeway as a key technical parter of the event. As a company committed to excellence, innovation and advancing the standards in fleet maintenance, Freeway will be introducing a digital inspection module to the IRTE Skills Challenge. The company will provide online training in advance and hands-on training with its digital inspection module to help participants learn how to carry out an inspection fully digitally. One of the core values of the IRTE Skills Challenge is around sustainability and safety. Therefore, as the transition to digital inspections reduces paper waste, it enhances accuracies and ensures data and communication integrity. This hands-on experience can boost participants’ skills and prepare them for the evolving demands of the engineering industry.

Freeway’s continued dedication exemplifies its commitment to driving innovation in the transportation industry. This approach embodies the goal of the Skills Challenge, which is to recognise and celebrate the exceptional skills of bus and coach sector professionals.

“The IRTE Bus & Coach Skills Challenge is a testament to the exceptional skills and dedication of professionals in the bus and coach industry and we are honoured to be a part of it,” says Patrick Tandy, managing director at Freeway.


One of the key aims for the IRTE Bus & Coach Skills Challenge in 2024 is to increase female participation in the event and a recently announced collaboration will hopefully help that dream become a reality. A milestone partnership has been forged between the Society of Operations Engineers (SOE), the Bus Centre of Excellence (BCoE) and the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT). This partnership will address the underrepresentation of women in engineering, starting with their collaboration on the IRTE Bus & Coach Skills Challenge.

The bus and coach sector is still largely male dominated, so this collaboration recognises the need for a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the communities it serves.

By leveraging their unique expertise, the tie-up is mutually beneficial to all three parties. For the SOE, it provides an opportunity to extend its mentorship and career development programmes for aspiring female engineers. For the BCoE, it offers a hub for knowledge and best practices in bus operations and also provides valuable insights into specific engineering roles and challenges within the sector. Finally, the CPT is able to better represent the interests of bus and coach operators, while ensuring the initiative aligns with industry needs.

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