London and the Electric Double Decker

21 October 2015: Building on announcements made earlier this year at the world’s first Clean Bus Summit at City Hall, that electric double decker buses were to be trialled in London, comes news that a deal has been signed between the Chinese bus company BYD and Scotland based, Alexander Dennis Ltd, to manufacture “200, 12-metre (40ft) single deck buses a year, representing turnover of around £660 million over the next 10 years. They are also in discussions to extend their alliance to include double decker buses which could triple the deal to almost £2 billion.”

A number of cities around the UK already have single decker electric buses in operation – including London (see below) – however, there have always been significant challenges in bringing forward an all-electric double decker bus due to the bus load and distance travelled.  A TfL press release from earlier this year announced that electric double-decker trial will run on route 16 between Cricklewood and Victoria Station, starting in October – however it’s not clear if this trial has in fact started (the Mayor responded to a recent MQ stating that “It is hoped they will enter passenger service later this year”).

At the same time, TfL’s hybrid (diesel-electric) bus fleet has grown to 1,500 vehicles – the largest in Europe – but there are now increasing concerns over the use of diesel and its impact on air quality emissions in London – even those used in hybrid vehicles, as a result of uncertainty on the reliability of the electric batteries used, and doubt over how often the buses are operating in hybrid mode – see recent story in ‘Air Quality News’ here based on a FOI request by London Assembly Member Stephen Knight AM. It appears more work will need to be done to ensure that hybrid double decker buses will deliver a low pollution mode of transport in the Mayor’s proposed Ultra Low Emission Zone.

A single decker pure electric bus route, the 312 – which runs between Norwood and South Croydon – details of which are on the following TfL press release. Further single decker electric bus services are due to start in 2016 – routes 507 and 521  – which link Waterloo station to Victoria and London Bridge stations respectively: 51 electric buses will operate across the two routes.

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