UK-based bus transportation firm First West of England has launched 77 biomethane-powered buses in the city of Bristol. The first 10 biogas buses came into operation in January 2020, refuelling at an existing biogas station that opened in 2019. As part of the company’s latest initiative, First has constructed a new gas filling station at the Lawrence Hill depot where the new buses can now refuel.
Another 27 buses took to the streets of Bristol this week. The new buses feature Scania chassis built in the UK and will reduce emissions by 85%, as well as giving customers an ‘improved on-board experience’, according to First, with comfortable interiors, USB charging points and additional wheelchair space.
The new gas filling station designed and built by Gas Bus Alliance, cost around £2 million and took nine months to build. It can provide 100% compressed biomethane to fuel up to 100 gas buses. The biomethane is taken directly from the mains, eliminating the need to deliver fuel via road tankers. The biomethane is provided by the Gas Bus Alliance and is sourced from food waste using anaerobic digestion.
In total, there has been an investment of £28 million into the scheme over three years, partly funded by a government grant of £4.79 million under the Low Emission Bus Scheme (LEBS) through South Gloucestershire and Bristol City councils.
“This second and larger-capacity facility is a crucial next stage in our biomethane journey,” said James Freeman, First West of England managing director, “it means we can roll out cleaner, greener vehicles and contribute substantially to help clean up the local air.
“As we are now able to fuel more biomethane powered gas vehicles than we currently have in our fleets, we are looking to open the facility up to other, third party commercial operations in the future. Indeed, we are already in negotiation with one organisation. We’re really putting the West of England at the forefront of clean commercial fleets.
“Meanwhile, I am also delighted that we have been able to deploy this next batch of buses – 40 on all routes in the east of the city and into south Gloucestershire, bringing the very latest equipment to many thousands of our customers each week from next week.”
The new station will operate in tandem with the existing biomethane station in Bedminster, south of the city. With the opening of the new station, a total of 99 buses will be running on biomethane in the area by April 2020. Each bus will be able to run for around 250 miles.
West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “It’s fantastic to see even more biogas buses getting out and about and the infrastructure to support them. These brand new, low emission buses not only make customers’ journeys better, but also dramatically improve air quality and cut carbon emissions compared to diesel buses. They support my ambition to improve public transport and give people more sustainable ways to travel to keep our region moving.”
“Today’s announcement is a win-win for communities in the east of Bristol, and the city as a whole,” added Kerry McCarthy, MP for East Bristol. “With these new buses running on local routes, we can improve air quality – and quality of travel for local residents.
“It shows that taking steps to protect the environment needn’t come at a cost to passengers, with the new state-of-the-art bus fleet a real improvement on the diesel buses currently in service. I was pleased to get a preview when I visited the depot recently with Keir Starmer, and to speak to some of the drivers.”