I’ve been leading the charge in parliament to decarbonise our transport system. I was on the parliamentary inquiry into electric vehicles, went to Norway to learn from the most advanced carbon-free transport system in the world, and led debates about it in the Commons. But I’ve also been doing loads back here in our community too.
In the last 8 weeks our council has installed over 200 on-street charging points for electric cars. You might not notice them as they’re discrete, but they are there and growing in number. I even brought the head of the team to parliament to watch the debate on electrification of our system.
Buses are too often overlooked when we talk about our transport infrastructure. Buses transport millions of people every day and are a vital part of our life in Brighton and Hove. Martin Harris is the brilliant CEO and I meet him regularly to talk about issues affecting our community that needs improvement, but also about how I can support the vital work they do to offer a better, more reliable, affordable, and accessible network.
That also means moving towards carbon-free too. Well, right now our bus company is taking delivery of 33 fully electric drive-train buses and they are amazing! I took a trip around the city in one of the new buses, including from the Old Stein to Palmeira Square totally emissions free.
Let me explain how they work. The motors that power the bus are 100% electric. The bus is also equipped with powerful batteries that can keep it going fully ‘zero carbon’ for quite some distance. And when the bus is in our suburban areas, a small ultra-low emissions ‘range extender’ engine kicks in to recharge the battery. Fantastic technology means that the range-extenders can be prevented from coming on when it’s close to schools or in special zones in the centre of town in order to bring down levels of air pollution in built-up places where there are lots of people.
But that’s just the start. The buses are so quiet! When it’s running on zero emissions, all you can hear as a pedestrian is the squeaking of tires as the bus approaches! I can’t wait for noise pollution to be eliminated from our towns and cities, life will be so much better.
Also, so much thought has gone into the interior of the buses, often into things that most of us will never appreciate. For example, the entrance way has been considerably widened so it’s much, much easier for wheelchair users, people who have mobility challenges, or parents with buggies to enter and leave the buses. The colour schemes have been designed in partnership with dementia charities and are ‘dementia friendly’. I never realised that people living with dementia find certain flooring colours extremely distressing and create the sensation of falling.
Phone charging ports are by every seat and something I love is tables, so you can sit opposite friends or in a group around a table. These are brilliant leaps forward.
These advances show is that doing the right thing by the environment doesn’t involve sacrifice, it’s life-enhancing and gives us all a much better, healthier set of choices which are also more consumer friendly.
The buses are being used on the Number 5 route for now, and in the coming year 133,000 miles of totally emissions-free travel will be completed by the new buses as they carry 7.5 million passengers. That’s many tonnes of carbon saved from our climate, and millions of passengers getting a better experience.
There’s more to do, and awful lot more, such as going one step further and introducing hydrogen-power for buses and lorries. But we’re taking those steps now and I’m really pleased that our local bus service is right there in the forefront.