Following the completion of the task of replacing all of NX Coventry’s double-decks with brand new electric buses a couple of months ago, attention now returns to the West Midlands fleet.
National Express West Midlands are currently undertaking delivery of the next batch of brand new BYD ADL Enviro400 EV buses, which are expected to begin entering public service in January 2024.
NX announced earlier this year that they were investing £150m in 300 new zero-emission electric vehicles.
We are investing £150 million in 300 UK-made electric zero emission buses, for delivery by the end of December 2024. The buses will be deployed across the West Midlands.
This investment is part of us delivering on our commitment to have a completely zero emission bus fleet in the UK by 2030. Thanks to the original Government investment that kick started the transition to Zero Emission Buses (ZEB), we are now in a position to acquire these buses.
This will mean that over a third of our fleet will be zero emissions – which is the highest proportion of any city region in the country. Each zero emission vehicle saves an average of 66 tonnes of carbon annually*, so this investment will save a total of nearly 20,000 tonnes from going out into the atmosphere every year.“National Express West Midlands invests record £150 million in 300 UK-made electric zero emission buses” – 26th Jan 2023, nxbus.co.uk
I suspect that the target of December 2024 may not be met though, due to delays with NX’s partner Zenobe being able to deliver and install the required charging infrastructure at garages.
I understand that the first lot of new buses will be heading to Perry Barr and Yardley Wood. The brand-new purpose built facility at Perry Barr was built ready to accommodate the required charging equipment and power supply, while Yardley Wood already has a number of electric buses in operation and thus just requires additional charging stations.
The total of 300 buses consists of 170 BYD ADL Enviro400 EVs as confirmed by NX earlier this year, with the remaining 130 believed to be Wrightbus StreetDeck Electroliners, though this does not yet appear to have been officially confirmed, although NX did have one on trial earlier this year.
These may not start to be delivered until later next year and into 2025. Again while nothing has been confirmed, I hear rumours that the Electroliners will be destined for Acocks Green and Wolverhampton garages.
What will be replaced?
The immediate priority will be to get rid of any remaining non-Euro6 compliant vehicles, for which an exemption was granted by TfWM but only to the end of January 2024.
Beyond that, I have been told that there is a ‘desire’ to reduce the number of single-deck vehicles in the fleet, of which there are far more than is actually ‘needed’.
The oldest single decks in the fleet are now the Scania OmniLinks, which started being introduced back in 2007, at a time when it was cost effective to have single decks running at high frequencies on busier key routes.
Unfortunately it is now 2023, and bus services cost a lot more to operate, plus some services are now more busy than ever, so it is more beneficial (and cost-effective) to use higher capacity double decks, even with a slightly reduced frequency.
Anyone – like myself – who regularly travels on the 2 and 3 between Birmingham and Maypole/Yardley Wood will rejoice at the news that these single decks should all be gone by the end of next year!
Of course, there will still be a requirement for garages to have single-deck vehicles for those routes that ‘need’ them – ie routes that pass under low bridges or along roads with low-hanging trees – so expect there to be a ‘shuffling around’ of the single deck fleet, which will balance things out. We’ve already seen this with the transfer-in of some vehicles from Coventry. Those that are – or have been – painted into the ‘new’ grey livery design are expected to remain in service for at least the next five years.
If Coventry is to meet it’s ambition of being an “all-electric bus city” by 2025, then some new electric single-decks will have to be sourced and operational by then, which will free up another 30 diesels still in use at the NX Coventry garage.
So it’s fair to say that the next year is going to be a very interesting one, with more new buses coming in, single decks being withdrawn, and other vehicles being moved and shuffled around.
“What about the other garages, why always the Birmingham ones?”
As was hinted earlier, it has been suggested that Wolverhampton will be the first Black Country garage to get new electric buses, which will probably be Wrightbus Electroliners.
Walsall seems to be lined up to get the next lot of Wrightbus Hydroliners, with a further 100 on order, but it is unclear yet when these will be delivered – hopefully once the garage has its own on-site hydrogen generation facility in place, rather than having to rely on the one at Tyseley Energy Park in Birmingham as at present.
The Birmingham Central garage is the one that is guaranteed NOT to receive any new vehicles, purely on the basis that this garage is expected to be closed within the next two years, and replaced with two new ones, rumoured to be in the Longbridge and Kitts Green areas of the city.
As for Pensnett and West Bromwich, well I guess their time will come eventually, the ambition is to have a zero-emission fleet by 2030, so will receive their fair share of new vehicles at some point.
Featured image (c) Tony Hunter, WM Buses In Photos, used as always with permission