ADL has low-emission vision
Alexander Dennis Ltd (ADL) has announced a vision for the transformation of buses in the UK, which could see at least 10,000 new low, ultra low and zero-emission buses in service within the next four years. The manufacturer believes the first of them could hit the road before the end of the year to maintain the benefits of lower pollution and better air quality towns and cities have experienced during the coronavirus lockdown.
The coronavirus lockdown has shown the liveability of towns and cities free from the chokehold of traffic congestion dominated by cars, as traffic volumes have diminished while people stayed at home to protect the NHS and save lives. With over 60% of UK road transport emissions in normal times caused by cars – compared with under 3% caused by buses – the result has been a stark improvement in air quality.
Chief Executive of ADL, Colin Robertson, said: “There is strong public support for locking in these benefits through and beyond the post-coronavirus recovery to keep a healthier environment and continue the fight against climate change. Along with active travel and other modes of public transport, buses are a crucial part of the solution. As a society, we need to act immediately and deliver benefits as quickly as possible to minimise the deterioration of air quality when the economy restarts.”
ADL believes combining different available technologies results in a highly deliverable proposal with immediate benefits. It says brand-new low and ultra-low emission buses could be ready before the end of the year to take older buses with diesel engines off the streets or to offer additional capacity to facilitate social distancing. These ultra-low-emission buses could bring self-charged zero emission electric range capability, completely cutting out emissions on high streets, near schools or at hospitals, without losing time to infrastructure planning and installation, according to the manufacturer.
ADL proposes work could begin in parallel to plan and develop the infrastructure for zero emission buses, with battery electric buses available in volume supported by proven expertise in rolling out fleets. Hydrogen buses will play a role for routes requiring additional range, it believes, and they will be ready when a fuelling infrastructure and a sustainable supply of green hydrogen have been put in place. ADL claims UK bus manufacturers have the production capacity to meet the demand of 10,000 buses over four years.
The manufacturer has shared its proposals with senior ministers in the UK and Scottish governments.
Colin Robertson said: “The UK Government’s earlier £5bn pledge for buses and cycling recognises the need to invest in active and sustainable models of travel. This is now more imperative than ever as the economy emerges from the impact of coronavirus.
“We urge the UK Government and devolved administrations to speed up the transition to cleaner transport by accelerating the funding earmarked for zero emission buses and assuring health benefits from an immediate positive impact on air quality can be delivered by low and ultra low emission buses that could be in service before the end of this year.
“We are supportive of all cutting edge clean bus technologies and recognise that one size does not fit all, which is why we have developed a choice of solutions which meet cities and operators’ individual requirements and priorities – whether that is air quality targets, carbon reduction, interior layouts, acquisition costs, total cost of ownership, or a blend of all of these.
“We have invested tens of millions in innovation – our solutions are road-ready to be delivered at scale with the reassurance that they will perform as required.
“ADL has a proud history of working with the industry, not just for the industry but for the nation.”
10,000 new clean buses over four years would approach what ADL describes as normal levels of investment. UK operators historically registered between 2,500 and 3,000 new buses per year, although in the last two years this fell to under 2,000 buses, which according to ADL is due to the impact of previous governments’ cuts to support and socially necessary services.
Unite national officer for automotive, Steve Bush, said: “Unite fully supports ADL’s ground-breaking plan to produce 10,000 clean buses over the next four years and is working with the company to help ensure it is realised.
“ADL’s vision would help to cut the often devastating health impacts of air pollution on people living and working in the UK’s built up areas as well as reducing the nation’s carbon footprint.
“In addition to bringing a net benefit to public health and our environment, ADL’s plan is exactly what’s needed to help kickstart the economy in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis and would support thousands of jobs in communities across the UK.
“It is crucial that the government gets behind ADL and includes the plan within the £5 billion funding pot for buses and cycles routes announced in February.”