Written evidence submitted by Abellio London (BUS0057)
About Abellio London Bus
- Abellio London operates 49 bus routes in the capital on behalf of Transport for London (TfL), plus rail replacement and event services across the UK.
- It carries 150 million passengers per year, operating around nine per cent of London’s bus network, running 800 vehicles and employing 2,500 staff across six depots in Central, South and West London.
- Since 2019 it has held Earned Recognition status with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which recognises it as an exemplary operator.
- Abellio London is part of Abellio UK, one of Britain’s largest transport operators, providing services for more than a million rail and bus passengers daily in England and Scotland. It operates four train divisions - MerseyRail (jointly with Serco), East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Trains (including London Northwestern Railway) and Greater Anglia.
- A subsidiary of the Dutch state railway, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, Abellio UK employs 16,000 colleagues and it is committed to providing simple, reliable and sustainable journeys.
Innovation in the sector, including successful examples
- In its Bus Back Better strategy, the Government stated its desire for “buses across the country to become the transport of choice for people with other options” and pledges to “tackle misconceptions about bus travel and address the negative perceptions some still hold about it”.
- In partnership with TfL, Abellio is introducing new, high specification zero emission buses that offer customers a sophisticated and modern experience, which can help address some of the negative perceptions that continue to persist of bus travel.
- Working closely with TfL, Abellio London has introduced high-specification battery-electric BYD ADL Enviro400EV buses on Route 63 in the capital, which include a host of customer-friendly features to make bus travel a more attractive alternative to the car(1).
- These new electric buses - manufactured by ADL in Scarborough - have been introduced on the key north-south London bus route, to encourage even more people back on to public transport as London recovers from the pandemic.
- The ultra-modern buses came into service last December - and are a sign of what the future of buses could be, combining public investment and industry innovation in support of the Bus Back Better Strategy.
- The new buses have a range of sophisticated features aimed at making them an even more attractive, safe and green alternative to the car. 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 and larger rear window that lets light flood it. With high back seats throughout, journeys are more comfortable, while a wood-effect floor creates an attractive aesthetic. The vehicles also have a larger wheelchair and buggy area, improving accessibility and helping parents get around town.
- ‘With ridership on the route between King's Cross and Honor Oak returning to close to pre-pandemic levels, this type of innovation in bus design can help shift negative perceptions of bus travel. Similar aesthetic and technological features will be available on a fleet of 30 new Wrightbus Electroliner zero emission vehicles, which are due to enter service later this year on route 111 in London, in addition to 12 buses on route U5 in May.
- Early feedback indicates customers have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of experience on route 63, showing how innovation from operators in conjunction with local authorities can help support a modal shift, and attract previous and new passengers onto buses following the pandemic.
- In its 2021 Bus Back Better strategy, the Government pledged to support an industry-led ‘Back to Bus’ campaign to address ‘misconceptions’, and showcase services like the 63 that offer modern features and perks. This campaign - when it launches - should look to trailblazing routes like the 63 in London for the exciting innovation that can inspire people back to buses or to switch from the car.
- In the meantime, there has been significant media and public interest in the new buses running on route 63(2). Committee members may not be aware that our modern, eye-catching zero emission buses have become a surprise hit on TikTok, with one user’s enthusiastic video review attracting 1.8m views to date (warning: video contains one instance of swearing)(3).
Decarbonisation of the sector and modal shift from other forms of transport.
Investment in a green, clean, zero emission fleet
- Abellio London has been steadily increasing the size of its zero-emission fleet, progressively building experience and growing our ambition over time and now operates one of the cleanest bus fleets in the UK.
- By the end of 2022 our business is set to run 125 electric vehicles covering 17% of overall fleet as zero emission.
- We are committed to introducing further, best-in-class electric buses, working with TfL towards the Mayor of London’s vision of having a complete zero-emissions bus system in the capital by 2030.
- Five out of Abellio London’s six depots will be upgraded to run zero-emissions buses by Autumn 2022, adding zero-emission buses from Switch Mobility and Wrightbus to the fleet as well as further Caetano and ADL vehicles.
- Continued investment by Abellio London in cutting-edge zero emissions vehicles manufactured by three suppliers in the UK (Switch Mobility, Wrightbus and ADL) supports innovation and jobs in green technology across the country.
- Notable highlights in our operation of high-quality, zero-emission vehicles in London include:
- The Walworth depot, where 34 single-deck eclectic buses run on the P5 and C10 routes, recently celebrated 2 million electric miles and 10m customer journeys, a saving of 3,647 tonnes of carbon emissions from bus exhausts, and a saving of 1,609kg of nitrogen oxides, a particularly toxic pollutant(4).
- A new fleet of 30 high specification Wrightbus electric double deckers due to be rolled out in October by Abellio London on route 111 in London. These new vehicles will join an expanding overall number of zero-emission buses across the capital’s routes, currently standing at around 750.
- Abellio London has recently begun operating state-of-the-art, purpose built electric buses from a brand-new depot in Dawley Road in Hayes - bringing clean air benefits to customers, local communities and staff alike.
- We are also undertaking significant works at our Twickenham depot to support the introduction of zero emissions electric buses. A 3.6 megawatt (MW) grid connection, delivered through UKPN’s Green Recovery programme, will support rollout of the 30 new zero emission Wrightbus from the Autumn on route 111 in the capital - the first fleet of Wrightbus Electroliner zero emission vehicles to come into operation in England. The new buses will have sufficient batteries on them to operate a full day’s service and will be fully recharged overnight at the depot.
Green bus infrastructure
- There are challenges associated with replacing diesel vehicles with zero emission vehicles, beyond the cost of acquiring the actual buses. These friction points may be holding back and delaying wider adoption and rollout across the sector.
- A challenge for operators like Abellio at present is to ensure cost-effective grid connections to power fleets of electric buses.
- Costs can vary significantly from project to project and can on occasion be hugely expensive, with the additional logistics and administration associated with requesting and establishing new grid connections holding back faster electric fleet introduction - meaning polluting diesel and hybrid vehicles are potentially staying on the road longer.
- To support bus operators in rolling out zero emissions fleets, power network operators could be enabled to invest strategically to reflect intelligence on emerging needs, rather than responding to specific connection requests as they are made.
- The connection process at present can be complicated and slowed down due to upgrades having to be paid for by the “next in line” user - when the need for investment actually reflects wider capacity pressures on the local network.
- At Abellio London’s Walworth depot, we have worked with a battery storage and management specialist to install a 1.2MW stationary battery-storage solution for a fleet of Caetano electric single deckers, as an alternative to a prohibitively expensive grid connection.
- The battery, which was put in place much faster than a new grid connection, supports the power requirements of the fleet, allowing Abellio to use a smaller grid connection. It charges during the day while the electric buses are in service, and the stored energy charges them overnight. The battery’s energy can also be used during peak hours when energy from the grid is more expensive, reducing Abellio’s energy costs for charging the fleet.
- In Bus Back Better, the Government pledged to provide the financial support and incentives needed for the market to scale up quickly. To encourage faster and more agile adoption of zero emissions buses in London and across the UK, we believe the Government should widen the scope of financial support to cover innovative investments in agile charging and management solutions, where grid connections are prohibitive or can’t be realised in the short to medium term.
Policy and funding
- Abellio London’s growing expertise and experience in deploying modern, safe, zero emissions buses on routes across London means it is well positioned to work in partnership with local transport authorities nationwide, helping to deliver key elements of the Bus Back Better strategy.
- But effective transition to zero emission buses will require the Government, operators and manufacturers to work together and jointly invest. Public sector investment needs to keep pace with the ambition and scale of targets.
- To enable progressive operators like Abellio London to continue to make strategic investments in zero emission buses in 2022 and beyond, continuity, ambition and certainty on long-term Government funding is needed.
- As an innovative and forward-looking operator in London, running around 9% of the capital’s bus network in partnership with TfL, we echo central points made in the TfL Bus Action Plan(5). To grow London’s bus network, improve access, increase customer numbers - and decarbonise the capital - long-term sustainable funding is key.
- Government commitment to funding London’s world-famous transport system will allow operators like Abellio London to work with leading UK manufacturers and TfL to accelerate the introduction of high-spec, modern, zero emission buses on more routes. This in turn will help attract more people to buses, making them a zero-carbon travel option in more parts of the capital, and allow more Londoners to switch away from car use.
- Investment in - and progress on - initiatives that support reduction in journey times in London (a key element of the TfL Bus Action Plan) will also be key to reducing carbon footprint even further; smoother journeys will reduce the power demands for electric buses, making it possible for operators like Abellio London to run fleets of zero emission buses with reduced infrastructure implications.
- Calculation based on 2019 fleet average diesel bus emissions (fuel consumption only) of 1,282g per km (source: decarbon8.org.uk). Calculations also take into account carbon emissions associated with production and maintenance etc for diesel buses and carbon emissions associated with battery production and electricity generation etc for electric buses. There are no NOx emissions associated with electric vehicles. The figure is calculated from the emissions factors for diesel vehicles. Over the two million miles the NOx saving is around 1,600 kg based on the following emissions factor: NOx emissions factor – 0.5 g/km.