Eco-buses must get out of slow lane
THERE has been some understandable disappointment at plans to buy 22 diesel buses for nearly £3m.
Given Guernsey’s size and relative wealth, it is a reasonable ambition that the island can be an early adopter and flag bearer for green technologies.
Just two years ago the hope was that the island’s rusting fleet of diesel buses would be replaced in three phases, the last of which would be for 14 electric/alternative fuel buses to be purchased by 2020.
It would have been a powerful boost to the island’s eco-credentials and show such ideas are more than just paper aspirations.
Environment & Infrastructure knows that. It would have been a major feather in the committee’s hat if it could have started the move away from diesel engines in two years’ time as planned.
However, the committee also knows that it has to justify every penny of its spending and it has found major practical obstacles in the way of electric/alternative options.
The cost difference cited per bus is huge – £230,000 versus about £140,000 – and there are questions over whether electric buses have the range to drive for the 120 miles needed each day without charging.
It then takes hours to fully charge and as much as £250,000 to install the best chargers.
Once all that is achieved the report says that each new bus would need a new battery every seven years at a whopping cost of £36,000.
And finally, the options for the narrow buses needed for island roads are very limited.
Yet anyone who has choked on the exhaust fumes of a Dart Myllennium as it chugs up the Grange will look forward to the day such outdated polluting beasts reach the scrapyard.
Yes, the new diesel buses are much cleaner than the old Darts, with the most harmful pollutants reduced by as much as 92%. They are also less prone to crashes, break down less often and are more fuel efficient.
There is much to recommend them.
But the expectation has to be that as soon as the obstacles to non-diesel buses are cleared the island will be ready to invest again.