North Yorkshire leaders want to run 150 electric buses around county to cut pollution

Political leaders in England’s largest county are asking for a multi-million fund from the Government to introduce dozens of electric buses in a scheme they hope could set an example for the rest of rural England.

Monday, 10th August 2020, 5:45 am

North Yorkshire’s council leaders, who are currently in talks with the Government over a devolution deal and the creation of an elected metro mayor, hope to roll out ultra-low emission vehicles across the county in the coming years.

In a submission to Ministers, they say some electric buses are already being introduced in Harrogate and York in a bid to cut the levels of pollution going into the atmosphere.

But they now say they “need a step-up in funding” to meet the scale of the challenge and are asking for an initial grant of £52.5m to help deliver a three-phase programme for the introduction of electric buses.

Read More

Read More
A North Yorkshire council with 144 councillors would drown out local voices, say...

The first phase would use £27m to buy around 150 electric buses and the charging infrastructure needed in York for seven operators, who would provide £24m of their own money.

It is hoped this work would complement another ambitious project to create an electric vehicle charging network for private vehicles, taxis and heavy goods vehicles.

Both schemes, which would require significant investment from central government as part of any devolution deal, are part of North Yorkshire’s ambitions to become the country’s first carbon negative economy.

The first of 21 new all-electric double-deckers enter service on the York Park & Ride network, a partnership between First York and City of York Council, starting with the Askham Bar corridor to the south west of the city.Photography by Richard Walker/ImageNorth

In its submission to government, North Yorkshire leaders say the bus network is critical to the county’s economic performance “but also presents a key challenge in decarbonising our economy and achieving our ambitions to be carbon negative”.

It says: “Our three major settlements ofYork, Harrogate, and Scarborough all have a number of declared Air Quality Management Areas or locations close to declaration limits, with bus vehicle emissions being a significant contributor to our air quality issues.

“The scale of change required to decarbonise our bus network, especially in our rural areas, requires a strategic and co-ordinated approach to funding and delivering the transition to ULEV buses in our region.

“Such a programme could also provide an exemplar approach to decarbonising rural passenger transport in other parts of the country.”

Tees Valley metro mayor Ben Houchen with a Tees Flex bus.

On Saturday, The Yorkshire Post reported that the potential collapse of smaller bus operators because of the coronavirus pandemic could hamper rural Yorkshire’s economic recovery and leave vulnerable communities isolated.

North Yorkshire leaders are also making the case for a more general investment in local bus services amid fears that loss of revenue could see services cease and operators go out of business.

With passenger numbers not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels for years, it is feared that “some commercial services that were only marginally profitable will become unprofitable and will therefore be terminated or curtailed in some way”.

North Yorkshire’s leaders say the situation will likely be much worse in rural areas where many bus services only run once a day. They say the commercial bus network is not satisfying local demand in large areas of North Yorkshire and “limiting the economic prosperity” of many communities.

Meanwhile, bus operators in Yorkshire are lobbying for changes to local transport networks to allow buses to be viewed as a viable alternative to the car as part of the Government’s ambitions for a green economic recovery from the pandemic.

The first of 21 new all-electric double-decker buses entered service on the York Park & Ride Network last month, part of what First says is the biggest zero emission park and ride fleet in the UK.

The full order of Metrodecker EVs, manufactured by Optare in Yorkshire, will be brought into operation this summer, replacing existing diesel vehicles and expanding the fully electric fleet on York Park & Ride to 33 buses.

Each bus saves almost one kilogram of carbon dioxide emissions for every kilometre travelled, meaning a saving of 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

Paul Matthews, Managing Director of First Bus West Yorkshire, says the pressure for better air quality will rise post-pandemic, adding: “We are convinced that we cannot revert back to a car driven society.”

Uber-style buses in the Tees Valley

On-demand ‘Uber-style’ buses are being trialled by a northern metro mayor to help residents in isolated communities access essential services shops, amenities and job opportunities.

‘Demand responsive’ bus services are up and running across the country, including a new pilot in the Tees Valley. North Yorkshire is hoping to set up its own service next year.

Officials behind the scheme say that with the popularity of smartphone apps every potential customer now carries their very own ‘bus stop’ in their pocket.

Operators can run services when and where they’re needed, rather than sticking rigidly to routes and timetables that often mean buses operate below capacity. The £3m on-demand bus service was launched across the region’s most isolated communities in three zones: Darlington and Stockton, Hartlepool, and Redcar and Cleveland.

The Tees Flex service will run as a pilot for the next three years and is powered by nine new Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, funded by the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “We have continued to operate the service throughout the coronavirus pandemic, however due to social distancing measures, it obviously has had an impact on the number of people who can be on a bus at any on time. During the pandemic, the buses have been used to transport patients to Hartlepool hospital.”