The Anonymous Widower

UK On Track To Reach 4,000 Zero Emission Bus Pledge With £200 Million Boost

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from the Government.

These are the main points of the press release.

  • Nearly 1,000 more zero-emission buses to be funded in towns and cities across the country, bringing the total funded in England to 2000 so far under this government.
  • A further 600 zero-emission buses have been funded in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Comes as consultation launched on ending sale of all new non-zero emission buses from 2025 to 2032.
  • Government continues taking unprecedented action to hit net zero and level up transport across the country.

Areas to get the new buses include.

  • Blackpool
  • Greater Manchester
  • Hertfordshire
  • Norfolk
  • North Yorkshire
  • Nottingham
  • Oxfordshire
  • Portsmouth
  • South Yorkshire
  • West Midlands
  • West Yorkshire
  • York

I would also like to see the government fund trials for the conversion of suitable buses to zero carbon. I certainly believe that London’s New Routemaster buses could be converted to hydrogen.

 

 

March 27, 2022 - Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , ,

7 Comments »

  1. Back in October 2020 both Wrightbus and Alexander Dennis had submitted evidence to Parliament citing the threat to up to 10,000 manufacturing jobs in the UK bus industry and the need to invest in greening future public transport. Wrightbus highlighted the investment required for zero emissions double deckers which could nearly double compared with the then current diesel powered versions, which cost around £230,000. The Government have had a lot on their plate, especially with the pandemic since then, so where have we got to.
    Not one month ago The Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents the industry, said it expected to have a £350m “funding gap” next year, with operators also facing higher costs, especially in staffing, where a driver shortage has led to large wage increases.
    Graham Vidler, chief executive of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, told a House of Lords committee hearing: “The consequences could be that bus operators are forced to reduce services by about 30%.
    I can say that since Arriva announced it was handing back its license at the end of October last year our services in Guildford have been cut in many cases by that 30% and Stagecoach who stepped into the gap have had to resort to bringing in drivers from Swindon, 70 miles away. As you can appreciate lack of local route knowledge has its consequences. This is a situation either replicated or in the process of being replicated in many parts of the country.
    Since mid February the Government have pumped in a further £150 million of interim funding, not quite the £350 million mentioned above.
    As for this particular announcement on more money, that’s more than welcome but before you get too carried away with the Government’s and particularly Grant Shapps propaganda I would look a little closer at what is being offered, it was he after all in 2013 who was lobbying for Parliament to make firing and hiring of employees more easy. Contrast that with his outrage at the P&O situation.
    This Press Release makes much of government investment and to be fair admits reference to money already committed, but it suggests that it’s principally government largesse that is finding the number of vehicles involved. A simple review of the number of vehicles involved and the money available should raise questions. Last December TfL figures indicated Hydrogen fuel cell-powered double decker bus cost £545,000 (based on deal for route 7 buses), Battery Electric double decker bus: £400,000 or about 30% more than former hybrids, while a BE single decker costs up to £340,000.
    It is right to say that the DfT are contributing to the funding, but in modern procurement practice much of the capital cost of a bus, in particular the ‘expensive green technology’ like batteries and hydrogen power will come from companies like Zenobe Energy who in turn lease the equipment either via the bus builder or directly to the bus operator.
    We might all like to see the removal of all buses with tailpipe emissions by the end of 2032 but I doubt it will happen, after all the Press Release only talks of the sale of new buses, powered either in part, or totally, by an internal combustion engine being banned. Perhaps they realise the cost and the practicality of conversion of many buses which could be 2/3 life expired or do not adapt easily is prohibitive.

    Comment by fammorris | March 28, 2022 | Reply

    • As to conversion, I suspect that London’s 1000 Routemasters could be converted. One of my friends runs a London bus concession he likes the idea.

      The easiest way might be for Cummins to produce a plug compatible hydrogen internal combustion engine and squeeze in a hydrogen tank somewhere. The diesel engine on a Routemaster is related to the one in a Dodge Ram pickup.

      I’ve worked with Cummins and they have a good customer-friendly philosophy, which is designed to capture niche markets.

      What better advert could Cummins have, than a thousand iconic buses on the streets of London?

      Cummins are the elephant in the room, where hydrogen is concerned. They’ve backed hydrogen to decarbonise the company and the idea might just work.

      Comment by AnonW | March 28, 2022 | Reply

  2. I knew I’d forgotten one further regional operator/town that benefitted from Jive funding, Translink and Belfast. The BBC recently ran an article about the 23 fuel cell buses they’re introducing.
    Refurbishment of the Routemaster, as TfL have explained, essentially covers the cost of repainting and replacement of components approaching life expiry such as new seats rather than the addition of new features. At the moment more general enhancements are not being considered. Given that the £31 million budgeted for this 5 year lightweight programme isn’t even currently available, there must be questions about the available finance for anything more extensive. In addition as each year passes, the buses approach 2032 and the end of their anticipated lifespan. I think it’s a brave man who foresees TfL setting aside the sort of funds that would be required to convert to a hydrogen ICE/BE hybrid.

    Comment by fammorris | March 29, 2022 | Reply

    • Khan wouldn’t fund the conversion, as they are seen to be a Tory bus. I’ve even met Corbynistas, who wouldn’t even use them, if it was chucking it down with rain and they didn’t have an umbrella.

      But if TfL don’t do it, I can see someone doing a Vivarail with them and creating a fleet of a thousand hydrogen hybrid buses. Knowing Cummins as I do, I am sure, that they would give every bit of help needed. I also suspect that there are hundreds of thousands of vehicles with a similar Cummins diesel in them, that need converting to zero-carbon.

      Cummins are converting to a hydrogen company and the iconic Routemasters are the ideal vehicle to tell the world, that they are serious about it.

      Comment by AnonW | March 29, 2022 | Reply

      • Let’s get one thing clear I’ve little time for the looney lefties, indeed I had the misfortune to work on contract, directly and indirectly on three occasions in the last 15 years of my working life, in parts of London’s public transport and can say that irrespective of political persuasion TfL’s culture is dysfunctional.
        So get your facts correct, the buses were purchased under a Tory administration and TfL forced to take on the development costs which Johnson had assured everybody would… ” be borne by the industry”, as well as the capital obligation. That may have been inevitable for the Underground’s rolling stock, but it wasn’t the logic that lay behind Thatcher’s bus deregulation of 1985 and the reorganisation of London Transport’s Bus fleet; the operator was meant to carry the risk.
        Subsidiaries of First Group, Stagecoach, Go-Ahead, Arriva, RATP and Abellio were the leading contractors of London Buses and yet not one of them was interested in participating in the purchase of the Routemaster, the bus simply made little operational sense for them and therefore was not regarded as commercially viable.
        The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson assured all and sundry that London’s investment would be mitigated by the sale of further Routemasters around the rest of the UK, do you see these vehicles running anywhere else, no they are the vanity project of one sorry individual.
        Apart from Wrightbus nobody else was enthusiastic to build them, I think that tells you something about the conviction of the manufacturing industry at the time. And what happened to the original Wrightbus, why with its dependence on the Routemaster, with all its implied political risk (electorates change their mind), a capital burden that TfL had never wanted and a cyclical market that had turned down, it entered administration following unsuccessful initial negotiations by China’s Weichai and Bamford. Thankfully Jo Bamford’s commercial instincts are better and he finally got the business at a knockdown price.
        With much of 20 years working hand in glove with the Cummins, working across bus and rail projects at all levels of the company I think I know Cummins every bit as well as you.

        Comment by fammorris | March 29, 2022

  3. At the time of the development of the Routemaster, I went to two presentations, one at the London Transport Museum by someone from Heatherwick and another at the IMechE, by someone from Wrightbus.

    Looking back with hindsight, I do wonder, if the biggest mistake in the project was to get Heatherwick involved. If you look at Wrightbus’s new hydrogen buses in London and Birmingham, these are probably much nearer to the ideal bus and are very similar to the latest buses from Alexander Dennis.

    As I have a certain amount of arthritis, I like a bus with a flat floor, so for instance if I’m coming from Moorgate to home, I’ll take the Routemaster-equipped 21, rather than the 2012 Wrightbus-equipped 141, simply because of the floor. I never use a 30, by my house, as they are awful Egyptian buses based on a standard Volvo chassis, with more steps than Odessa.

    I was told by a guy, who runs a London bus concession, that the Routemasters don’t make so much money from advertising. Surely, in designing anything you make sure you maximise the cash-flow.

    You talk about the dysfunctional nature of TfL. It’s as though, there is no corporate design rules or at least basic guidance.

    I had a very interesting discussion about bus design once with a union rep on a Manchester bus. The conversation had started, when I observed to the guy next to me, that the kids on the bus seem to be trying to steal the driver’s money.

    Noting my accent he said I was from London and then said that contactless ticketing has stopped that in London and then said he was the rep. He said, contactless ticketing had stopped attacks on staff and also two doors on the bus made the driver’s job easier with wheelchairs and buggies.

    He was very much of the opinion, that someone should have laid down a standard bus and ticketing system. As an example, I have a Freedom Pass and every time, I use it outside of London, it’s a different system. On the other hand, when I use a train around the country, the system is broadly similar, whether the ticket is checked by a gate or a human.

    When buses were reorganised by Thatcher, someone should have thought about ticketing. Perhaps we need a Bus Standards Authority?

    Comment by AnonW | March 29, 2022 | Reply

    • I have long been an advocate for standardisation, whether it be the performance, the accessibility or anything else that better manages the initial and maintenance costs of a vehicle. The only proviso I would add is that standardisation should not hinder valid innovation. Perhaps the bus industry could learn something from the Interoperability Regulations that have transformed the rail industry over the last 25 years.
      As for ticketing, like so many things in life better informed direction is required and one shouldn’t be put off by the fact that better ideas may originate outside these shores. It is however a fact that country-wide standardised Smart card rail ticketing is woeful, you only have to look at the following link
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartcards_on_National_Rail .
      If they can’t move more rapidly and rationalise they will never reach a solution. Given that the pensioners’ free ITSO England wide bus pass has been in existence for a number of years the situation on the railways is even more stark.
      Still I mustn’t talk up the bus ticketing too much if Guildford is anything to go by. We have four bus operators in a town of about 80,000 people and we have no unified tickets that allow us to make many cross town journeys. I suspect that situation is mirrored in many provincial towns throughout the country.
      As for intermodal ticketing, apart from that poor imitation PlusBus I don’t think any other scheme is operating.

      Comment by fammorris | March 29, 2022 | Reply


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