First West of England is celebrating Clean Air Day (8 Oct) with some two million miles covered and over 3,000 tonnes of C02 emissions – or the weight of around 290 double decker buses – saved so far by its latest fleet of carbon neutral biomethane buses that entered service since January this year.
The £28 million biomethane powered gas bus scheme has now introduced a total of 99 cleaner and greener vehicles on routes in the West of England region. This is on top of 156 of the cleanest diesel buses manufactured to the latest clean Euro VI standard.
The latest biomethane bus route introduced is service 73 (Bristol Temple Meads – Cribbs Causeway) in a bright green livery. It joined the existing fleet in March, including metrobus routes m1 and m3, South Glos Lynx services from Bristol to and from Thornbury and Yate and Citylines East services to and from Kingswood and Hanham.
All these new vehicles also offer customers a much-improved on-board experience, with modern, comfortable interiors, featuring USB charging points and a second wheelchair space on the Citylines East 73 and the South Glos Lynx services.
The total biomethane bus scheme has involved an investment of £28 million over three years and was part-funded by a government grant of £4.79 million under the Low Emission Bus Scheme (LEBS) through South Gloucestershire and Bristol City Councils.
The scheme also resulted in a new gas filling station being introduced at First West of England’s Lawrence Hill depot, provided by the Gas Bus Alliance. Operating in tandem with the existing biomethane station in Parson Street, Bedminster, which opened last year to run the m1 metrobuses under contract to First by Bristol Community Transport, the two sites provide for a total of 99 buses to run on bio-methane gas in the area, with each fuelling giving a range of 250 miles.
In addition, there are 165 more mature vehicles in the fleet whose engines have been updated to bring them up to Euro VI standard, with a further 69 still to complete this year, which means they produce up to 14% fewer emissions than previously. First’s goal is for all its buses to be zero emission by 2035.
As technology to develop the use of electric power and hydrogen fuel advances, First West of England envisages further investment in bio-methane buses. It is hoped that this will make possible the eventual transition from the current increasingly clean diesel vehicles to the zero emission fuels of the future, with even the possibility that the gas infrastructure now in place could be converted to facilitate the supply of other fuels like hydrogen as these develop.
In Bath, the twelve distinctive £3m Aquae X39 Bristol to Bath fleet, which was launched in April, are all Euro VI standard vehicles. This will mean that First West of England is already close to meeting the requirements of the Clean Air Zone, which is expected to be introduced next year.
The biomethane gas that fuels the buses is provided by the Gas Bus Alliance (GBA). It comes from waste food and is supplied from anaerobic digesters across the UK. Biomethane gas offers more than 85% reduction in greenhouse gases compared to older diesel buses and helps to improve air quality. The new buses build on the legacy of the Bristol ‘Poo bus’, which, as is well known, was run on the Number 2 route across Bristol while the City held the European Green Capital title in 2015.
The way this scheme works is that the bio-methane is purchased from GBA which remotely injects bio-methane into the national gas grid. An equivalent amount of gas is then drawn off from the mains locally in Bristol. It is the biomethane, purchased at a premium that First buys for its buses.