8.6 million inhabitants live in London (2015), and this figure is expected to reach 10 million by 2030. London needs to find solutions to absorb the increased population and mobility needs, improve air and noise quality and decarbonise transport. Air Quality is one of the top priorities, poor air quality being responsible for an estimated 9,400 deaths per year in the city. In parallel, the European Commission has launched legal proceedings against the UK for its failure to comply with the Air Quality directive adopted in 2008.
London is looking for solutions to tackle those challenges. The Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS), and the Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy, both adopted in 2010, sets out the Mayor’s vision for transport in London over the next 20 years, and a framework for improving London’s air quality and measures aimed at reducing emissions. The Strategies include measures such as a new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London from 2020, which comes in addition to the Low Emission Zone established in 2008. A large number of initiatives are undertaken in the bus sector.
TfL is a statutory body created by the Greater London Authority (GLA) Act 1999. TfL role is to implement the MTS and manage those services across the Capital for which the Mayor is responsible: TfL is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Capital’s public transport network including both the Underground and bus networks, managing London’s main roads and planning and building new infrastructure. Every day, around 24 million journeys are made across TfL’s network. In the bus segment, the MTS has set ambitious plans aiming at decarbonising the fleet and increasing the air quality: TfL will deploy 800 New Routemaster Buses and 1,700 hybrid buses by 2016 (1,600 buses in 2015). In addition, some 1,900 Euro III buses will be retrofitted with SCR exhaust systems and the remaining Euro III buses will be replaced by Euro VI buses by December 2015.
In order to operate in the Ultra-Low Emission vehicles zone (ULEZ), from 2020, all single-decker buses will have to be zero emission (battery electric or fuel cell electric), while all double-decker buses will have to be low emissions. TfL is therefore currently testing ultra-low emission buses: on top of the fuel cell bus fleet, single decker electric buses are trialled, and the first pure electric double-deck will enter London service during early 2016 (read announcement here).
Tower Transit who operate route RV1 under contract to TfL, is part of the Tower Transit Group. Established in 2013, the Group currently employs 2,030 staff and operates 650 buses, with 1,700 staff and 450 buses operating within the TfL London operation. In May 2016, the Group will increase by a further 900 staff and 380 buses when the Tower Transit Singapore operation commences.
Tower Transit purchased 20 bus routes in London from First Group PLC in 2013, including the RV1 route. (Read more here).
The project is co-financed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
Eight 12 m fuel cell buses (Wrightbus) entered daily service gradually since 2011. They operate in Central London on a tourist route on a dedicated line: the RV1, which links Tower Gateway Station and Covent Garden (6.23 km length, average speed of 12 km/h). They buses are in operation between 16 and 18 hours per day each, and cover a daily distance of 200km.
End of 2015, one of the fleet’s buses achieved its 20,000th hour of fuel cell operation, a significant operating performance milestone (see press release here).
A new facility was built with two maintenance bays.
Hydrogen is delivered by truck at 500 bar in gaseous form (Steam Methane Reforming)
On 27 March 2015, London signed the Clean Bus Declaration at the occasion of the C40 Latin American Mayors Summit. In this Declaration, the signatories stress their commitment to deploy 40,000 ultra-low emission buses into their bus fleet by 2020.
On fuel cell buses more specifically, TfL will continue the current fuel cell bus programme until 2019/2020, well after the official end of the CHIC project (December 2016). Two additional fuel cell buses will be added to the fleet as part of the 3Emotion project (see Van Hool press release here). In addition, Transport for London indicated its general commitment to integrate fuel cell electric buses in its fleet by signing a Letter of Understanding on 23 June 2015 in Riga, along with some 30 European bus operators and cities.