Zero emission buses could make public transport more popular


Research undertaken by ComRes on behalf of Go-Ahead’s Zero Emission Centre of Excellence has found that only 26% of the public view bus travel as a ‘green’ form of transport – on a par with rail travel, but well below the number who view cycling or walking as ‘green’.

However, if they are specifically told that a bus they are catching is powered by an electric or hydrogen fuel cell battery, the proportion who view it as a green form of transport rockets to 81%.

Contrary to received wisdom in the public transport industry that ‘green’ buses don’t sell more tickets, 55% of respondents said that they would be more likely to travel by bus if they knew that a zero emission bus was available. This raises the prospect of a significant increase in bus travel as the UK’s 30,000-strong bus fleet transitions from diesel fuel to electric or hydrogen power.

The Go-Ahead Group’s Zero Emission Centre of Excellence, based in London, brings together expertise from Go-Ahead’s bus companies across the UK, Ireland, Sweden and Singapore and will develop best practice in buying, running and maintaining zero emission buses.

“It is surprising that so few people view buses as green, given that they account for just 2% of greenhouse gas emissions from transport, compared to 52% from cars,” says Louis Rambaud, Go-Ahead’s director of strategy and transformation. “Public transport is a fundamentally sustainable way to get around. Nevertheless, these findings show that zero emission buses are a game changer. If we can demonstrate to the public that buses are green, we can persuade millions of people to leave their cars at home in favour of public transport. And this reinforces the value of public sector support for investment in zero emission buses – including the Government’s ZEBRA funding scheme for electric and hydrogen buses.”

The Go-Ahead Group operates more than 6,000 buses across the UK, and has committed to an entirely zero emission UK fleet by 2035. The company is the largest operator of buses in London and has eight regional bus companies including networks in Devon and Cornwall, Dorset and Hampshire, Brighton, Oxford, East Anglia, East Yorkshire, Manchester and the north-east.

“Go-Ahead is already the UK’s largest operator of electric buses and we’re determined to deliver a zero emission fleet by 2035,” says Richard Harrington, engineering director at Go-Ahead London and head of the group’s Zero Emission Centre of Excellence. “Our new centre of excellence will develop solutions to the challenges such as equipping depots, buying buses, managing battery life and training drivers. We will also be looking at ways to open-up our depots to third parties who may wish to use our charging points for their own vehicles.”

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Lauren is a regular contributor to Traffic Technology International (TTi) and a freelance technical journalist. Over the past 15 years, she has worked on a wide variety of B2B publications and websites, including a stint as deputy editor of Traffic Technology International from 2014-2016. She has a degree in English from the University of Exeter. Lauren is mum to two busy little girls. She is always in demand!