The Go-Ahead Group, one of Britain’s leading bus and rail operators, has launched a pioneering fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses to carry passengers on routes in the Gatwick Airport, Crawley and Horley area.
Once fully delivered, the fleet will comprise 54 vehicles and will be one of the biggest hydrogen bus fleets in Britain. It will be served by a liquid hydrogen refuelling station – the largest of its kind in Europe.
The zero emission buses are able to cover long ranges and carry heavy loads, making them ideal for local routes around Gatwick that are intensively used – operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The single-decker GB Kite Hydroliner buses, manufactured by Wrightbus, are the first hydrogen powered vehicles in Go-Ahead’s fleet of more than 6,000 buses. Hydrogen will be stored at the Metrobus Crawley depot in liquid form, before being converted to gas held in tanks on the roof of vehicles.
The liquid hydrogen refuelling station in Crawley is owned and operated by Air Products, a world leading industrial gas company. Once it reaches full capacity it will be the largest of its kind in Europe and will be capable of providing the equivalent of fuel for over 100 buses per day.
The Crawley bus depot, at Wheatstone Close played host to a number of local stakeholders and politicians in a presentation and ceremony to launch the new hydrogen buses. Richard Holden, minister for roads and local transport, was also in attendance, speaking at the event and touring the refuelling facilities.
Richard Holden MP, Minister for Roads and Local Transport said “Communities and commuters across the country know how important buses are – and these UK-made hydrogen buses could revolutionise transport for millions, bringing quieter and smoother journeys. It is great to see these 20 new hydrogen buses on our roads, one of the largest fleets in the UK, backed by over £4.3m of funding from our Ultra-Low Emission Bus scheme. With nearly 3,400 Zero Emission Buses funded across the UK since February 2020, this latest fleet puts us well on the way to meeting our target of 4,000 ZEBs.”
Ed Wills, Managing Director for Brighton & Hove and Metrobus said “I am delighted to introduce 20 new hydrogen buses to our Metrobus fleet and a liquid hydrogen refuelling station, which, once fully commissioned will be the largest of its kind in Europe. This launch marks a historic moment for our business and demonstrates our commitment to reducing emissions in the local community where the only thing that comes out of the bus tailpipe is water. A further 34 buses will join our fleet over the next 18 months through our partnership working with Surrey County Council.
Christian Schreyer, Group Chief Executive, The Go-Ahead Group, commented: “These fantastic buses and the innovative refuelling depot demonstrate Go-Ahead’s commitment to investing in a net zero future for transport. We’re already the leading operator of electric buses in Britain and we believe hydrogen is a further piece in the jigsaw of decarbonising public transport – to the benefit of the environment and local communities.”
Manish Patel, Air Products Hydrogen for Mobility Director UK, commented: “We are proud to be part of this exciting project, where we intend to deliver green hydrogen produced in Immingham from imported renewable energy sources such as the NEOM Green Hydrogen project, where there’s an abundance of sun and wind. The project is an excellent example of companies collaborating and pioneering in the energy transition space. Together, we are making the decarbonisation of public transport a reality; our liquid hydrogen-fed refuelling station will be able to reliably serve the depot’s full fleet.”
Stewart Wingate, Chief Executive, London Gatwick Airport, commented: “Sustainability is key to everything we do and we’re proud to have contributed financially to these 20 zero emission Hydrogen busses. The route this new fleet serves is vital for passengers and airport staff travelling to and from work, including late at night and early morning.
“We want half of our passengers and staff to get to the airport using sustainable transport, so we’re investing in our public transport facilities. In addition to this zero-emission bus fleet, we have also upgraded a vital bus interchange with accessible lifts and our redeveloped train station will open soon. We also hope to see further advances in the use of hydrogen at the airport in the years ahead “.
Jean-Marc Gales, Chief Executive of Wrightbus, said, “We are honoured to work together with the Go-Ahead Group to provide our industry-leading zero-emission buses for these important routes. Public transport is a key area in the UK’s zero carbon ambitions and hydrogen has a vital role to play. Collaborations such as this one show the potential of UK industry to meet this challenge that we face.”
Matt Furniss, Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Growth said, “I am delighted that Surrey County Council and Metrobus continue to work together to help deliver our ambition to become a net zero county by 2050, to improve public transport and to encourage more people to use buses in Surrey.
Surrey County Council has invested £16.4m to roll out 34 of 54 hydrogen fuel cell buses across the county – creating one of Britain’s largest hydrogen bus fleets and offering our residents cleaner, greener bus travel.
We’re also investing in bus priority measures to make sure buses turn up on time, more real time passenger information for users to plan journeys and providing more on-demand bus services.”