Bamford airs hydrogen bus plans

JCB heir and Wrightbus saviour says 3,000-hydrogen-bus plan could help save UK economy

Plans for a UK-built, 3,000-strong hydrogen bus fleet across the country have been revealed by JCB heir Jo Bamford. The man behind the rescue package of Wrightbus says he hopes the move would lead the nations’ economic recovery. The buses would be built at Wrightbus’s factory in Ballymena.

Mr Bamford claims his plans are “an ideal option for a Government that needs to boost UK manufacturing at this critical time whilst radically reducing our carbon emissions and air pollution”, and has already submitted his vision in a document to ministers.

Plans are being drawn up to introduce fleets of these buses in places such as Aberdeen, London, Bimingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Brighton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast.

Mr Bamford leads hydrogen production company, Ryse, and last year acquired Wrightbus, which has an interest in hydrogen buses, having produced what is considered the world’s first hydrogen double-decker. He believes that an urgent introduction of hydrogen buses will lead to a knock-on transformation of other heavy duty vehicles, such as lorries, trains, ships and even ambulances and police cars. This would have the potential to create and sustain hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs across the country.

In Bamford’s vision, 3,000 hydrogen buses (considered by the JCB heir to be about 10% of the UK’s total fleet) could be in operation by 2024. Ryse is in the process of building the UK’s first hydrogen production plant on the Kent coast. This will be powered by a near-by offshore wind farm and uses electrolysis to produce hydrogen from water. Mr Bamford plans to build another four hydrogen production plants by 2025 to provide enough power for all 3,000 buses. The plans have the potential to create 1,000 new UK jobs at Wrightbus and 150 at Ryse Hydrogen and the supply chain.

Jo Bamford said: “Cities around the world are seeing massive reductions in air pollution as many vehicles have been kept off the road during the pandemic. However, the reality is that if we just go back to how public transport has traditionally been run, levels of pollution will quickly rise again to the same levels as before the crisis. We have an opportunity with hydrogen powered transport to make a huge difference to air quality, and for UK jobs as well. With increased orders on this scale I could increase the workforce at Wrightbus by nearly 700%.

“UK-made hydrogen buses are ready to hit the streets today. We already have hydrogen buses in London, and 20 of Wrightbus’ world-leading double deckers will be added to this later this year. We also have orders from Aberdeen, with many other areas becoming interested in our technology – in the UK and across the world.”

Bamford has asked the Government to set aside £500m, 10% of the National Bus Strategy fund, to unlock the UK’s hydrogen industry. Roughly about £200m of this is needed to build the hydrogen production facilities and bespoke, zero emission transportation vehicles to take it to bus depots in city centres. Another £300m is called for to subsidise the building of the buses to enable operators to purchase them for the same price as a current diesel one.

Bamford said: “The Government gives the public a subsidy to buy an electric car, why shouldn’t a bus operator – who provides a vital service for the local community – be supported to buy a clean, green, UK-built hydrogen bus?”

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