Transport for London (TfL) has announced that 51 more entirely electric buses will be operating in the capital from next year. Great news for sure... but we can't help but wonder if it is a little unambitious?
Routes 521 and 507 will be getting the climate-friendly treatment, with the new Irizar buses coming into use early next year. This will follow the electrification of route 312 later this year. The buses are all single-decked and both serve routes that end at major rail termini. The 507 links Waterloo with Victoria, and the 521 links Waterloo to Victoria. The routes will be operated by the Go-Ahead group.
One nerdy bus blogger has done the digging and found that the new buses appear to be costing TfL £450,000 each - that compares to £355,000 for a "New Routemaster".
TfL says that the new buses should reduce Carbon emissions by 408 tonnes per year - and Nitrogen Oxide by 10 tonnes. Apparently the plan is that by 2020 all 300 single deck buses in central London should be electric - and all 3000 double-deckers should be hybrids.
The upgrades can't come soon enough - as noted during the bus strike earlier this year, buses cause a metric shitload of pollution (that's a scientific term).
TfL is also keen to point out that it is doing more on sustainability too. In addition to the three electric routes, it also runs a fleet of 8 hydrogen buses (the RV1 between Tower Gateway and Covent Garden), and excitingly later this year it will be testing in-road range extenders for electric buses. The idea is that whilst buses wait at bus stops on the 69 route in East London they will be able to recharge the batteries wirelessly, enabling them to go further. Just like how you can wirelessly charge your phone.
So this all sounds great and TfL should be applauded - but is really really enough? The new buses, and especially the tests of new technology are encouraging, but given London has over 6800 buses, and climate change is real and urgent, can't one of the richest cities in the world act a little quicker? Notably, TfL's targets are only for buses in central London. Perhaps tellingly, in one sustainable city index, whilst London ranks highly on social and economic measures, it doesn't even make the top 10 on the environment. Come on London, let's be a bit more ambitious.