Bristol Community Transport to operate Bristol Metrobus m1 with gas bus fleet

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HCT Group-owned operator to run 21 ADL Enviro400 City-bodied Scania biogas buses under contract for First West of England

Bristol Community Transport (BCT) has been unveiled as the operator of the longest Bristol Metrobus route – the m1.

The m1 will connect south Bristol, the city centre, UWE and Cribbs Causeway with a rapid transit route. BCT will operate the route under contract to First West of England, and is investing in a fleet of 21 Alexander Dennis Ltd Enviro400 City-bodied Scania biogas buses, which will run on gas generated from food waste. The fuel will be provided by Gas Bus Alliance. A First spokesperson told CBW that the service was subcontracted because First’s depots in Bristol are either not close enough to the m1 route or do not have sufficient capacity in addition to the growth the company foresees elsewhere in the city. The m1 will accept First West of England tickets and allow passengers to benefit from through ticketing.

The investment is expected to create up to 60 new driver and support positions at BCT’s Bedminster depot. First West of England will operate the other two Metrobus routes – m2 and m3 using Euro 6 diesel buses which are expected to be replaced by biogas buses within two years. The start date for the m3 is currently May 29, while the m2 remains unconfirmed.

BCT will be investing £7m in the buses and the installation of the necessary refuelling facilities. Grant aid of £1.6m has been received from the Department for Transport under the Low Emission Bus Scheme towards the overall investment. CBW understands that the service will commence once the gas infrastructure is in place and the vehicles are all delivered. This is currently estimated to be early 2019.

The funding represents the first part of a much bigger scheme awarded by the DfT in 2017 to provide biogas buses in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

BCT is part of the HCT Group social enterprise which operates in London, Jersey, Guernsey and Leeds. It plans to reinvest the profits from the commercial work into further transport services or projects in the communities it serves. BCT already provides four regular bus routes in Bristol, operating under contract to Bristol City Council.

Each Metrobus route has a designated colour to make it easy for passengers to recognise the route they want. The colours are magenta for m1, orange for m2 and green for m3. There will be spare vehicles sporting red colouring that will be used on any route.

The specially designed interiors have a new seat fabric, WiFi and USB charging points, while the specially-selected drivers will wear special Metrobus uniforms.

Metrobus is an ‘open access’ scheme, which allows any bus operator to operate a Metrobus service provided they sign up to meet strict operating standards on emissions, timings, cleanliness, and operation, and register a service giving 56 days’ notice. The Metrobus operators are not contracted to the councils in any way and take the commercial risk themselves. They do not have exclusivity on any route.

Valid tickets bought on the Metrobus network are accepted on the rest of the First West of England network in Bristol, while tickets bought on First services (particularly mTickets) are valid throughout on Metrobus routes. Likewise, Avonrider multi-operator tickets are available for use on Metrobus and the local bus service of all operators, including First, Abus, Stagecoach, Bath Bus Company, BCT and others.

Dai Powell, Chief Executive of HCT Group, said: “We’re really excited by Metrobus and delighted to be a part of it. We think it’s going to make a real difference to people in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. By providing a significant upgrade to the transport network, Metrobus creates a real opportunity to get people out of their cars and onto public transport – with all the environmental benefits that brings for people and planet.

“As a social enterprise, we don’t have shareholders and exist for community benefit. That means we will re-invest the money we make from Metrobus into services for elderly and disabled people in Bristol, which we hope will go some way towards meeting the increasing needs of these groups.

“We are looking forward to operate the m1 as soon as possible. Preparatory work on the necessary gas infrastructure has begun, and orders have already been placed to manufacture vehicles. As soon as the refuelling station is ready, the vehicles are delivered and the iPoints are all installed, we’re ready to operate the m1 service.”

James Freeman, Managing Director of First West of England said: “We look forward to working in contract with BCT as operator of Metrobus m1. This is a really innovative operating model. We believe that this is the first time in England that operators have been contracted to each other in the interests of keeping things simple for the travelling public.”

Cllr Mhairi Threlfall (Bristol) said: “BCT is part of the world’s leading transport social enterprise company and we are delighted to have them as one of our Metrobus operators. They’re making a significant investment and commitment to Bristol that will see benefits here for many years to come.”

Cllr Colin Hunt (South Gloucestershire) said: “Cyclists, pedestrians, motorists and bus users are already experiencing the benefits that Metrobus has brought –we are now moving to the last phase with the m3 service registration and Bristol Community Transport unveiled as the m1 operator.”