Yorkshire Buses Go Greener

Climate change is currently a hot topic. With all the “noise” surrounding it, we might be forgiven for thinking that it is all talk and little is actually being done, however, this is not the case. Our local authorities and bus operators are using innovative technologies to reduce the carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions of local bus systems as the following examples show.

Clean Bus Technology Fund

Last year the Clean Bus Technology Fund provided grants to local authorities of £40M to retrofit clean technology to older vehicles. This year a further £25M will be provided. This means that mid-life vehicles can be brought up to the latest Euro VI emission standards. In Yorkshire beneficiaries of this year’s scheme are West Yorkshire and Sheffield. West Yorkshire will be able to upgrade 179 vehicles, in addition to the 300 buses already covered by previous funding, whilst Sheffield will have funding to update 160 vehicles. This should reduce pollution levels and improve air quality. Whilst public transport may not be the major contributor to pollution overall, the effects can be disproportionate in city centres so this work could go some way towards mitigating the problem.

Buses on Park Row Leeds

Harrogate Electrics

The Harrogate Bus Company operates 8 electric buses on its Harrogate town services. These services operate via the town’s bus station which has now been fitted with opportunity charging points so that the vehicles can have their batteries re-charged while waiting and taking on passengers. Taking advantage of opportunity charging allows the buses to put in a full day’s service while always ensuring that the battery charge remains at a sufficient level to provide the range required. This is a highly innovative solution to the provision of emission free town bus services, but such opportunity charging might not be available for longer and inter-urban services. Nevertheless, it is a first for the UK.

Harrogate Electric Bus being charged at the bus station

York Park and Ride

First York, the major bus operator in the city, operates the park and ride services in partnership with City of York Council. First York already operates 12 electric single-deckers, most of them on the park and ride routes. Now the company has confirmed an order for 21 Optare Metrodecker electric double-deckers. This will allow most of the park and ride services to convert to emission free electric operation and it will also increase capacity on some routes. City of York Council secured funding from the Ultra Low Emission Bus Scheme to support the purchase. First York will have to enhance its charging facilities before the buses arrive but is it anticipated that the buses could start to enter service by October.

This is a hugely significant development for public transport within the region as these vehicles have a range of approximately 150 miles which means that they could be suitable for operation in other towns and cities. A London operator has already ordered 31. The latest version of the single-decker operated by First York now has a range of around 190 miles in summer or 150 miles in winter when heating and lighting add to the load on the batteries.

Interestingly, the electric vehicles that First York uses and has on order are produced locally by Optare at Sherburn in Elmet which means that we have a manufacturer here in Yorkshire at the forefront of the important innovations that could drive the widespread implementation of emission free public transport.

A question in the back of my mind though, being a regular user of the park and ride services in York, is how do we reduce congestion within the city to enable these buses to get to their destinations without undue delay? This will mean persuading a lot more people to leave their cars either at home or to use the park and ride.

York Electric bus on Rougier Street

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