A fleet of new, higher specification all-electric buses are being introduced on a key London bus route to encourage more people back on to public transport as London recovers from the pandemic.
The new ultra-modern buses were first developed around two years ago, and are a sign of what the future of buses could be if the Government agrees a long term funding deal with Transport for London (TfL).
Without a deal, the less green and increasingly ageing bus fleet will have to remain on the roads.
TfL is introducing new buses to the north-south route 63 that have a range of innovative features aimed at making them an even more attractive, green alternative to the car.
In development over the last couple of years, the first buses came into service in December, with the whole route transformed in the coming weeks. It comes as ridership between on the route, between King’s Cross and Honor Oak, has returned to close to pre-pandemic levels.
The new route 63 buses were manufactured by ADL, the country’s largest bus and coach manufacturer, in Scarborough. ADL employs 2,000 people in skilled jobs, as well as supporting a successful apprenticeship scheme.
Other London buses are produced around the UK in places such as Ballymena and Falkirk, demonstrating how investment in the capital’s transport network helps level up the whole country.
The new buses feature USB chargers and mobile phone holders in the seats so that passengers can work or relax more easily as they travel.
They have a more open feel – with a skylight on the upper deck, larger rear window, and handles on the backs of seats rather than vertical poles for an unobstructed view.
With high back seats throughout journeys will be more comfortable and a wood-effect floor adds to the cutting-edge design.
New covers for the priority seats, with a contrasting colour scheme, help differentiate them from other seats for passengers who are less able to stand.
The vehicles also have a larger wheelchair and buggy area, improving accessibility and helping parents getting around town.
CCTV cameras have also been upgraded to provide higher-definition footage, making travel even more safe and secure.
Customers expect to have up-to-the-second information about their journey to make instant decisions on the move.
New digital signage on board the buses shares a wider range of real-time information, including the time to the next stop, disruptions, and service updates for Tube and Overground services.
Later in the year, the route will not only have next bus information at most bus shelters but also new real time information screens at many bus stops.
Adding to the appeal of the state-of-the-art vehicles, a new bus lane on New Kent Road is already making journeys faster and more reliable.
This complements a route that is already high frequency, with a bus every 5-8 minutes in the morning peak.
The buses join an expanding number of zero-emission buses across London, currently standing at more than 650. It follows the Mayoral commitment for all new buses in the city to be zero-emission, with TfL aiming to convert the whole fleet by 2034.
With sustained Government funding, this could be brought forward to 2030. Continued investment in London’s bus network not only makes buses more attractive to passengers in the capital but creates 3,000 green jobs around the UK.
Investing in new buses – which are cleaner, safer and encourage sustainable travel – is essential to growing bus use in London.
Electric buses cut congestion, with a double decker carrying more than up to 80 times the number of passengers as a car and with no harmful emissions from their exhausts. Electric buses help Londoners breathe cleaner air and are central to the national decarbonisation agenda.
In 2022, it is even more important that TfL makes the bus network attractive to encourage more people to use it, ensuring revenue is maintained and reinvested into the network, supporting the Mayor’s target of 80 per cent of people walking, cycling or using public transport by 2041.
TfL will use customer feedback from the route 63 to inform plans for the wider bus network, with sustained Government funding essential to enable TfL to continue supporting the city’s economic recovery. Without a funding resolution, these economic advantages, along with the health and environmental benefits of an improved bus network, will not be realised.
Seb Dance, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: “It’s great to see the introduction of this cleaner, safer and 100 per cent electric bus fleet on route 63. As ridership levels on the route return close to pre-pandemic levels, these new buses will play a significant role in encouraging Londoners back onto our bus network.”
“Unfortunately, we will not see more of these buses if TfL goes into managed decline due to lack of funding.
“Investing in these new buses and the wider network is now more important than ever – to both encourage sustainable travel and to support the capital’s recovery from the pandemic. The reality is that without a long-term funding deal, innovation like this on our buses and across the capital’s entire transport network is at risk of stalling; disrupting services, putting jobs at risk and stifling the economic recovery of London and the country.”
Sir Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby, and Chair of the Bus and Coach Industry APPG, said: “I am proud that a fleet of electric buses manufactured in Scarborough are not only supporting the bus industry nationally, but helping support both London’s and the country’s sustainable recovery from the pandemic. The production of these buses in my constituency is testament to the fact that investment in London’s public transport directly benefits businesses and skilled green jobs across the UK”
Louise Cheeseman, TfL’s Director of Buses, said: “We have made significant progress in developing zero-emission buses and with bus safety over the last few years, leading the way for the rest of the UK. Ultimately any evolution of the bus in the capital is focused on the customer. These brand new buses on route 63 show our ambition to enhance the customer offer, bringing together for the first time a suite of new features that improve everything from comfort to journey speeds, and make buses the obvious choice over the car.
“As we recover from the pandemic it’s vital that our bus network stays relevant and remains an appealing option. Continuing our dependency on cars, especially for journeys that could easily be made by bus, would be catastrophic for our health and the environment.
“An ongoing investment pipeline into the capital’s zero emission buses is not only essential to keep London moving in a sustainable way, it is crucial in supporting green jobs across the UK. With funding certainty, we could take our bus network from strength to strength and enable the rest of the UK to benefit from improved buses, too.”
Emma Gibson, CEO of London TravelWatch, said: “It’s great to see that the new bus lane in New Kent Road is already helping to free the bus and make journeys more reliable as we come out of the pandemic. The new features like higher definition CCTV and increased wheelchair space will make the bus more attractive and help to encourage people to travel in a more sustainable way.”
Chris Gall, ADL Group Engineering Director, said: “We are delighted to continue to work with TfL and operators like Abellio to deliver innovation for London’s buses with the customer-friendly features on these zero emission buses. TfL’s sustained investment in its bus network is hugely important as it underpins skilled jobs and apprenticeships at our factories in Yorkshire and Scotland, our aftermarket facilities across the country, as well as in our extensive domestic supply chain, supporting communities through re-investment in local economies.”
Jon Eardley, Managing Director, Abellio London Bus, said: “Investment in route 63 is part of our wider commitment to improve the travel experience for customers by introducing state of the art, best-in-class electric buses across London.
“We’re very proud of the quality and comfort that these new zero emission buses offer, and will continue to work in partnership with TfL to champion the adoption of innovative, customer centred features to create a safe, attractive and accessible green travel experience for Londoners.
“Here at Abellio we believe that continued and sustained investment in the capital’s zero emission fleet is essential to attract more people to use public transport, which in turn promotes other modes of active travel. Encouraging more people to use the bus by improving the offer to our customers is a catalyst for the decarbonisation of the network and helping to deliver the Mayor’s zero emission network and active travel targets.”
Bryan Lewis, Head of Theatre Operations at the Young Vic, said: “As a recipient of a Creative Green Award, we’re very excited about the introduction of more all-electric buses passing close by to the Young Vic. Our staff, performers and audiences all benefit from cleaner air in London. The easiest and greenest way to get to the Young Vic is to use public transport and we look forward to welcoming more audiences in 2022 and beyond.”
Image: courtesy TfL / PRGloo