City set to ditch electric sightseeing bus trial


The Council is being recommended to ditch a trial which has seen City Tour buses converted to run on battery power. Apparently, a trial of “retrofitting” buses to run on electricity, started 5 years ago, has been judged a failure due to reliability problems.

A grant to convert some of the 6 open-top buses used on York’s City Sightseeing tour service from diesel engines to be fully electric was approved in 2013. The buses had been criticised during the last decade  for affecting air quality standards on some of the City’s narrower streets.

A report to a meeting next week says that in York , and other open top tour city’s, the conversion has not achieved high reliability standards. Only 4 buses were converted and many of the services provided by them had to be run by substitute diesel powered buses.

A “Clean Air Zone” has been introduced in the City centre. This means that those buses regularly accessing the City centre must either be electric or must meet the more stringent Euro VI diesel emission standards.

It is understood that the operators of the services have tried to obtain open topped low emission vehicles but currently none are available either as electrics or with Euro VI standard engines at affordable prices..

It looks like the open top service will cease later this year with conventional layout buses being substituted.

NB. There has been extensive investment in electric buses in the City. York will have one of the UK’s highest proportion of mileage operated by electric buses once the new park and ride electric fleet arrives over the next 3 months

York to boast one of the biggest fleets of double deck electric buses outside of London

York will be home to one of the biggest fleets of double deck electric buses thanks to investment by First York and funding secured by City of York Council from Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV)

Today (25 March), City of York Council, First York and bus manufacturer Optare announced that 21 new double deck electric vehicles will arrive in York in October 2019. The zero-emission and fully electric buses each have the capacity to carry 99 passengers and have a range of over 150 miles from one overnight charge, which means that they don’t need to be recharged during the day. Alongside this, First York is also upgrading its charging infrastructure, and the state-of-the-art vehicles will feature audio visual next stop technology, USB charging points and will carry new-look Park & Ride branding.

York Park & Ride, an operating partnership between City of York Council and First York, supports over four million journeys every year and is one of the UK’s most successful Park & Ride services. 12 electric single deck Optare buses have been operating on two out of the six Park & Ride sites for the last five years; helping to improve air quality and reduce congestion in the city. Individual car use and the congestion caused is a big contributor to air pollution in York, but each bus can take up to 75 cars off the congested streets in York.

Marc Bichtemann, Managing Director of First York, said: “We’re proud to be the operator of one of the biggest fleets of double deck electric buses outside of London, as we continue to work with City of York Council to improve air quality in York.

“Today’s announcement showcases the benefits of partnership working in practice and we remain committed to investing in our bus services in York, as we share the same vision. By working together, local authorities and bus operators can make a real impact on congestion and air quality, provide better services for our customers, support local economies more effectively and, ultimately, help to increase passenger numbers.

“At First York, we are striving to make things better for the customer by making bus travel simple, speeding up bus boarding times, reducing journey times, using data to make better operational decisions and developing a customer relationship as opposed to a transactional one.”

For further information, visit

York waits 102 years for an electric bus then 35 arrive at the same time!

Hard on the heels of last week’s announcement that York’s first battery powered double decker bus had been brought into service, today the government has announced funding for a further 24 vehicles.

The government says “it is determined to clean up air in towns and cities across the country, and today’s investment in green buses comes after our air quality plan was published last month”.

The investment will mean that the whole of York’s Park and Ride fleet will eventually be converted to electric operation.

18 new double deckers and six new larger single deckers will join the 11 existing electric buses next year

Department of Transport announcement today

The deal is thought to involve the bus operator (First) paying for 50% of the costs of the new fleet. In essence, the deal gets over the difficulty that the Council experienced in getting tenders for a clean Park and Ride fleet when it sought to let a new contract last year.

The potential tenderers quoted the whole life costs of electric vehicles as being unaffordable.

It is likely to be around 2 years before all the buses are actually operating in the City.

York’s first battery powered buses were introduced in 1915 when Liberal Herbert Asquith was Prime Minister (!).

UK’s newest electric double decker bus arrives in York


A landmark moment has been celebrated in York today (14 August) as it has become the first UK city outside London to trial a new fully electric double decker bus.

It comes 102 years after the City first pioneered  electric buses on a regular service route. 

Single deck electric buses were next trialled on the Fulford park and ride service in 2010 and have since become a regular feature on the Poppleton and Monks Cross shuttles as well as the off peak 500 service to Woodthorpe.

Electric Park and Ride bus

Early services hit a setback 2 years ago when an electric bus caught fire in the City centre

Representatives from City of York Council, First York and local bus manufacturer, Optare welcomed the arrival of the first “Metrodecker EV” in York today, which will be trialled on the York Park & Ride network and selected city routes over the next month.

The zero-emission and fully electric bus has the capacity to carry 99 passengers and has a range of nearly 150 miles from one overnight charge. The new vehicle is being trialled in York following the recent announcement that improvements will be made to the city’s already successful Park & Ride scheme. It was promised that new ‘greener’ buses would be introduced to improve fuel emissions citywide, placing York’s Park & Ride as one of the most sustainable and efficient in the country.

Speaking about the trial, Councillor Ian Gillies, executive member for transport at City of York Council, said: “I’m delighted to welcome this new addition to York’s green public transport fleet. There will be at least three electric double-deckers among the 14 electric buses on our Park & Ride routes.

“These Park & Ride buses will play a major role in continuing to improve the air quality in York, as well as giving an increasing number of passengers a safe, quick journey across the city.”

In March 1915 York Corporation Tramways Department was one of the very first operators in the country to use electric buses and to this day, there are still two relics of this pioneering form of transport in the City – the shelters at Clifton Green and Malton Road Corner, which were built as charging points for the buses

In March 1915 York Corporation Tramways Department was one of the very first operators in the country to use electric buses and to this day, there are still two relics of this pioneering form of transport in the City – the shelters at Clifton Green and Malton Road Corner, which were built as charging points for the buses

Marc Bichtemann, Managing Director at First York, adds: “This is another milestone to celebrate in what is already a thriving Park & Ride scheme in York. As one of the UK’s major bus operators, we understand the vital role we play in helping to solve the air quality challenge facing the country and I’m thrilled to welcome the trial of the future of bus travel to York today.

Councillor Andrew Waller, executive member for the environment at City of York Council, said:

“This innovation is very welcome to improve air quality in York. The bus was on display at the One Planet York Conference in June and it is great to see locally built buses on the streets of York.”

Optare unveiled its long-awaited zero-emission Metrodecker EV in 2016, and with its range projected to rise to 200 miles on a single charge within a year the manufacturer has signalled a move away from its previous mid-day charging strategy.

Robert Drewery, Commercial Director, Optare added: ‘After the success of the Optare electric buses currently operating in York, we are thrilled to be trialling the first fully electric Optare double deck in the City. We see this as a breakthrough in public transport and look forward to seeing these vehicles in operation across the country, improving air quality in our towns and cities.”

For more information on York’s Park & Ride visit

Award for York Electric Park & Ride Buses

Irony lost on Council as it downgrades its “green” specification for new park and ride contracts

Electric bus fleet

Electric bus fleet

Only a few days after the York Council leadership agreed to consider tenders for new park and ride services which do not include the use of ultra low emission vehicles on most routes, its existing electric fleet won a sustainability award. The service has been run in partnership with First from the sites at Poppleton and Monks Cross for the last couple of years.

Fears about the cost of replacement batteries, led the Councils Executive last week to downgrade its emission expectations when discussing a new contract specification for park and ride services in the City.

A contract for the new services attracted no tenders when it was advertised earlier in the year.

A media release for the Council today says, “York’s Park & Ride Scheme, which is run in partnership with First York and City of York Council, is setting the standard for other Park & Ride sites across the country, after scooping a prestigious accolade for its contribution to sustainable transport, at the North of England Transport Awards.

The North of England Transport Awards reward and encourage innovation and excellence and help disseminate the very best practice throughout the north of England, and this year, York’s Park & Ride scheme received the Contribution to Sustainable Transport Award.

In particular, First York was recognised for its wider commitment to providing greener travel for the region, with its fleet of electric vehicles, helping to reduce CO2 emissions in the city.

First York operates two fully electric Park & Ride routes at Poppleton Bar and Monks Cross, working in partnership with City of York Council and local bus manufacturer, Optare. The two schemes, which launched in 2014 (Poppleton Bar) and 2015 (Monks Cross), run 12 zero tailpipe emission electric vehicles, and were one of the first fully electric Park & Ride schemes in the UK”.

Electric bus explosion still unexplained

The media are reporting that electric park and ride buses are returning to the streets of York following safety inspections.

Bus fire

One of the park and ride fleet caught fire last week in the Hungate area.

No one was hurt but there were small explosions in the vehicle which was substantially damaged.

There is still no explanation from either First  or the Council about the cause of the fire and the subsequent explosions.

Passengers will expect to be given more information and we would expect that both local Councillors and MPs would be actively seeking an explanation.

Electric buses off the road in York?

New electric bus fleet launched last week

New electric bus fleet launched last month

As we said yesterday, it would be prudent to suspend the use of electric buses in York until the cause of yesterdays vehicle fire had been established.

It seems that, after some dithering, First intend to do just that.

Safety must come first and we were concerned that comments from the York Council (which lets the contract for the Park and Ride services on which the buses are used) and local bus managers implied yesterday that the buses would continue in use.

In petrol powered engines, fires were not uncommon. Fires are comparatively rare in newer vehicles and, those that do occur, can usually be traced to faulty electrical components.

New technology – like that deployed in the battery powered bus fleet – is another matter. The technology is in its infancy and , although inherently safer than the internal combustion alternative, deployment needs to be cautious.

A quick investigation should reveal the cause of the fire.

If, for example, it turns out that a spanner was left by maintenance staff in the engine compartment, and this led to the short circuit which caused the fire, then that would  be one thing. A relatively easy fix (count the spanners!) and get the buses back on the road!

If a component has been incorrectly fitted then again the remedy is obvious.

Only if faulty components or – heaven forbid – a design flaw is revealed would an extensive and debilitating delay become inevitable.

We are after all just going through the first sustained period of warm weather since the large scale introduction of the buses in the City and who knows whether that might be factor?

So full marks to First for adopting a cautious approach, albeit a little late in the day.

They, and the Council, now face the headache of back-filling the gaps in the Park and Ride fleet.

Hopefully the York Council will now be open and transparent about the incident and the action that is being taken.

UPDATE: First say that the vehicle manufacturers are undertaking precautionary checks on the fleet. Park and Ride services are unaffected.

Set back for electric buses in York?

There are calls for electric buses to be removed from  York roads until the cause of today’s fire in one of the vehicles has been traced.

The affected vehicles only joined Firsts fleet a short time ago but any incident like this is likely to dent passengers confidence.

York Press:

The fire occurred in the Hungate area. At one point there was a small explosion. Firefighters were initially hindered by high electric currents in the vehicle

The bus driver has been praised for promptly ensuring that his passengers evacuated the vehicle. There were no reported injuries.

Monks Cross Park&Ride gets new fleet of electric buses

P & R Electric buses May 2015

The UK’s top Park&Ride (P&R) service is further expanding its offer to customers by introducing a new fully electric fleet of buses at Monks Cross Park&Ride.

In partnership with First who operate the site, the introduction of six new electric buses this month follows on from the success of the introduction of a fully electric fleet onto the new Poppleton Park&Ride last June.

£3 million green bus funding to help clean up town and city air

Nearly 150 buses across the country to be fitted with pollution-reducing technology. York awarded £475k to make cleaner buses for the city

Sightseeing bus converted to battery power


More cleaner buses will be on the streets of towns and cities across England following the announcement of over £3 million funding today (11 March 2015).

York first pioneered the development of battery powered buses in 2010

Seven towns and cities have been awarded government grants to fit green technology to existing buses to help improve air quality and create a better environment for residents and visitors.

Electric buses pioneered by York in 2010


Baroness Kramer said:

The £3 million funding announced today will help improve town centre air across England, benefitting residents and businesses. These grants continue this government’s commitment to lowering emissions from public transport and support the growth of green transport in the UK.

The funding is the latest tranche of support from the Clean Vehicle Technology Fund, which has retrofitted more than 1650 vehicles with green technology.

This round of awards will see technology suitable for the stop-start nature of bus travel fitted, including exhaust gas treatment and flywheel hybrid technology, developed originally for Formula 1.

The successful projects will monitor the effectiveness of the technologies to provide vital information on the working life of green vehicle upgrades.

York saw the launch of the world’s first double decker conversion of a City Sightseeing tour bus in York to fully electric drive last year. 

The DfT’s Clean Vehicle Technology fund will now enable the conversation of an additional five buses into ‘zero emission motion’ – meaning electric motors.

The electric retrofitted vehicles will eliminate the emission of 2000kg of poisonous Nitrogen Dioxide (NOx) per year and reduce the carbon footprint by 95 tons CO2. Operating costs of the electric buses will save over £75k per year. 

The converted buses are quieter and emit no pollution from the tailpipe as they run entirely on electric motors and battery packs.

The electric range is more than enough to complete a full day of touring and the buses will trickle charge overnight at their depot, using low carbon off peak electricity.

Nick Love commented

 “I’m delighted that York has benefitted from the proactive approach to low carbon transport initiatives from the Lib Dems in government via The Clean Vehicle Technology Fund.

Last year there were an estimated 4.7 billion bus passenger journeys in England.

More people up and down the country get to work by bus than by all other forms of public transport combined.

York has a positive history of getting people out of their cars and onto public transport when coming into the city.

But being a party that is environmentally aware, while people are reducing their carbon emissions by hopping on the bus rather than using their cars, we want to make buses themselves greener, more efficient and easier to use”.