The new leadership duo at BRT UK, Chairman James Freeman and Deputy Chairman Patrick Warner, bring first hand experience in bus emission reduction to bolster the appeal of the organisation, which champions faster higher quality bus and bus based mass transit. At a crucial time #BusBackBetter (the new National Bus Strategy) brings vital policy to equip transport authorities, planners and operators with the tools to usher in a new golden age of public transport. Alongside these vital enabling policies, the first £120m of a commitment to get 4,000 new zero emission buses on UK roads has also been announced with expressions of interest for fast track bids submitted to the DfT by the 21st May and the main tranche due by the 25TH June.
James oversaw the pioneering deployment of Bio-methane buses in Reading and Bristol during his time as CEO of Reading Buses and more recently as MD of First Bristol & Bath. Bio-methane, which is the product of an anaerobic digester, which has been used to process animal and/or human sewage or waste food. This is a fuel that is not derived from oil-based products at all. In the UK, we have an effective national grid for gas and as bio-methane is chemically identical to natural gas from oil production the gas can be produced remote from the vehicles that need to use it. It is then supplied into the national grid, with the purchaser drawing out an equivalent amount of gas from under the street where they are before being pumped into buses using similar pumps to that of conventionally fuelled vehicles.
Gas buses meet Euro 6 emission standards without the need for additional after treatment equipment and with only a £30k premium over standard diesel buses, they have been providing a quieter onboard experience for some years. You can find gas buses in the UK in a number of operating locations including; Merseyside, Stockton, Plymouth and in larger numbers in Reading, Bristol and Nottingham.
Then for the last five years, Patrick has been flying the flag for the transition to zero emission through his work as Head of Innovation Strategy with Go Ahead Group’s south east based bus brands Brighton & Hove Buses and Metrobus of Crawley. The first commercially led application of hydrogen fuel cell buses in the UK bus industry is planned with 20 single deckers for the Fastway BRT system and is funded jointly by the operator, UK Government Ultra Low Emission Bus Scheme, EU Jive 2 project and a contribution towards refuelling infrastructure from Gatwick Airport and is expected to be in service in 2022. Second and third phase deployments in Crawley and at a Brighton & Hove depot on the south coast in Newhaven are in the pipeline subject to further funding approvals. This would lead to the largest deployment by far in Europe with 74 buses in Crawley and a further 36 in Newhaven, thereby converting a quarter of the combined south east fleet to zero emission in the space of a year or so.
Patrick is also now on a part time secondment with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority where he is leading the deployment of their first 20 double decker fuel cell buses and drawing up a strategy to transition the city region’s fleet of 1,200 buses to zero emission operation. A recent depot and route analysis study showed that there wasn’t a single depot in the city region that could convert solely to conventional battery electric buses so it appears clear that hydrogen will play a massive role in greening this big fleet of buses over the next decade.
Patrick said “coming out of the pandemic, I am convinced that buses have an even bigger role to play, not just in removing cars from the road and helping our economy bounce back by moving people around quickly and cleanly but the big regional fleets can also be a much more powerful enabling force for the wider decarbonisation of road transport”. As a demonstration of this, the Newhaven deployment of buses will share their refuelling infrastructure with at least two local council’s fleets of refuse collection vehicles, maximising return from public funding, building bigger scale from day one and reducing the cost for all. This is believed to be an increasingly popular way forward and a perfect opportunity for local authorities and operators to collaborate further for mutual benefit.