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Uncertain future for hydrogen bus plan


10 January 2020

Uncertainty surrounds the future of hydrogen fuel cell bus projects in London and Birmingham following the collapse and subsequent rescue of bus manufacturer Wrightbus. 

Transport for London placed an order with the Northern Ireland manufacturer  last May for 20 hydrogen double-deckers as part of the EU’s JIVE (Joint Initiative for hydrogen Vehicles across Europe) project that aims to commercialise fuel cell buses.

Gareth Powell, TfL’s managing director of surface transport, told the programmes and investment committee: “Our commitment through the JIVE project to invest in 20 hydrogen buses and the infrastructure to support them is under review, as the contracted bus manufacturer WrightBus went into administration in September and has recently been bought by the Bamford Bus Company. 

“We are in negotiations with the new owners and continue to work closely with the JIVE consortium to find the most suitable options for this project.”

A TfL spokesman told LTT this week: “Discussions are ongoing. Both parties are keen to reach an agreement as soon as possible.”

TfL intends to invest £15.9m in the new buses and fuelling infrastructure. European bodies are providing a further £5.8m and the Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles £1.3m.

A contract for construction of a hydrogen refuelling station at Perivale Bus Garage in Ealing has already been placed.

Birmingham City Council, another member of the JIVE project, plans to purchase 20 hydrogen buses via TfL’s framework. These will be handed to an operator for up to seven years to March 2027 (with a break clause after year three) (LTT 16 Aug 19).

The council has invited tenders for an operator to run the vehicles. It says: “The award of the contract will be subject to the successful novation of TfL’s bus framework agreement from Wright Bus Ltd to Bamford Bus Company Ltd and the final contractual arrangements being acceptable to all parties.”  

Birmingham’s £13.4m project is funded by OLEV, the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, the EU, and the council.

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