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CBN journal #1

With the May bank holiday approaching snow in Sussex was an unexpected reminder of 20 years spent in County Durham, especially on a day when old friends visited us from the north east and were just a little surprised to see snow as they viewed Brighton from the big wheel. They have been promised our customary glorious sunshine for a return visit to the BAi360 as soon as it opens in the summer.

Our new service i7 is up and running. Yes, we know i360 isn’t due to open yet, but we’re improving links to the seafront for everyone with this new service twice an hour from the station, along with its equally new sister, the X7 to the Marina every 20 minutes.

New fares and new fare structures have shown a need to improve awareness and understanding this week – it really isn’t necessary to pay £6.50 return from Lewes to Brighton or Peacehaven to Brighton. The new £5 return had slipped in unintentionally under the radar for many people who still wanted to pay cash on the bus. But bigger savings are possible via mobile phones, key cards and the good old scratch off cards from ticket agents, and include unlimited all day travel.

Lovely to hear very positive feedback this week about our next stop announcement system adding a ‘mind the cyclists’ warning at bus stops in Lewes Road to help improve safety for our passengers and for the cyclists themselves of course – a theme we are constantly returning to. We are very conscious that our buses – all 9 tonnes or more of them – live and work in very close proximity with cyclists so we give a lot of airtime to communications that are helping to keep them safe. Some new signs to cyclists on the rear near side of buses are also intended to help achieve better safety for cyclists.

Acting responsibly on the roads is crucial. Acting responsibly in and with our communities is equally important. We are actively engaged in our city in many ways – that’s in our DNA – and members of our team joined others at Go Ahead to discuss wider issues of sustainability to mark Responsible Business Week last week. So this week, work on preparing Brighton & Hove’s Corporate Responsibility Report for 2015/16 got underway in earnest, encouraged by the news that Go Ahead had just been scored joint highest transport operator in Business in the Community’s Corporate Responsibility Index.

A new (for me) chapter in our engagement in the city opened with an introductory session at Brighton & Hove Connected – the local strategic partnership for Brighton & Hove. Alongside the council’s Simon Newell, we introduced fellow members to the current state of play on transport in the city via a number of key performance indicators. Congestion remains challenging but public transport was highly rated both in comparison to other local authorities and against bus industry benchmarks through the government’s watchdog Transport Focus. And I never get tired of saying that the city has the highest usage of buses per head of population outside of London!

Equally important was hearing from all the other partnerships represented around the table. If I have to pick out one, it has to be fellow Fairness Commissioner Sally Polanski’s input on volunteering. So crucial for the city and not only in social terms – did you know its worth £127million annually to the local economy! Sally introduced the really important initiative from Community Works to encourage more support for volunteering via ‘the pledge’ (Please give this as much backing as you can and find out more in the new new volunteering strategy The Power of Volunteering at http://bhcommunityworks.org.uk/public-sector/the-power-of-volunteering/)

Ending the week with a ‘walkabout’ with colleagues on our buses this morning showed up several new opportunities for improvement of our service to our customers – looks like my agenda for next week is taken care of!

You can follow me @citybusnews

Martin Harris

Setting the record straight

You might have heard that the pollution levels in London’s Oxford Street exceeded their annual target for 2016 in the first four days of the year. And now with news that a car manufacturer has been forced to admit fiddling their fuel economy tests, you might be forgiven for thinking the age of diesel is coming to an end.

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But don’t lump the bus industry in with car manufacturers – it’s not just our environmental credentials that are a million miles away but our practices too.

Unlike car manufacturers, our buses go under real-world testing – that means they’re analysed on the roads not just in the lab. We go as far as sticking sand bags onto seats to replicate the weight of a bus with passengers on board. The industry’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership said it better than anyone: “the [UK] bus sector’s achievement in terms of the rate of innovation of low emission technology has been unmatched by any other vehicle sector in recent years”.

Then there are our state of the art buses. Our Euro 6 buses reduce particulate matter by around 95 per cent compared to that of the Euro 5. That’s a huge reduction. Not only this, but the Euro 5 bus had already reduced emissions on earlier models by half.

We’ve invested heavily to reduce our environmental footprint. Very soon our fleet will be 85 per cent Euro 5 or better buses. We’re so ahead of the game, we’ll have hit the low emission zone target set by the council for North Street a whole year ahead of deadline.

Now let’s look more closely at the case for diesel. Here in B&H, we meet and frequently exceed stringent environmental standards. We use selective catalytic reduction technology and diesel particulate filters to ensure our bus emissions are as clean as possible. It’s these very diesel particulate filters that are being tampered with by car garages in London, making emissions more polluting and giving diesel fuel a bad name.

But being a bus operator in today’s world, isn’t about driving ahead minding our own business. We’re part and parcel of the infrastructure of our city and see ourselves as a custodian in an integrated transport system that gets Brighton and Hove and its residents to where they need to be.

As such, we encourage people to use a range of alternatives to the car: to get on their bikes, participate in car clubs, to park and ride, to hop on the bus, and of course, to walk. And we encourage you to help us to make these choices as attractive as possible.

In the same spirit we embrace electric power. We’ve already got 13 hybrid buses which run on both diesel and electric power. We’re also watching closely the work of our sister company, piloting the use of fully-electric double deck buses to meet the heavy passenger and traffic demands of London. But that’s the future. As for today, diesel buses are taking us where we need to be geographically and environmentally – more than most people appreciate.

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