Imagine if a buzzer went off to alert HQ every time you were being ‘inefficient’ at work.
It might sound like the stuff of science fiction (or horror), but that’s exactly what happens if any of Brighton and Hove Buses’ 800 drivers breaks too hard or accelerates too quickly. Drivers who don’t adopt more efficient driving habits are sent back to training school.
MD Martin Harris sees Brighton and Hove Buses as more than just a decentralised local public transport provider: to Martin, it’s also a sustainable business. Relieving congestion, reducing the company’s carbon footprint and improving local air quality are as important to him as providing a reliable, frequent and comprehensive bus network.
Brighton and Hove Buses serves more passengers per head of population than any bus company in the country outside London, so its holistic approach to sustainability – which was recognised with a Sussex Business Award for Most Sustainable Business in 2015 – has a big impact.
Last year, the company’s older buses were upgraded with SCRT technology to reduce diesel engine emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide – the key pollutants that damage health and harm the environment.
New Euro 6 buses – which are unbeatable on air quality and eight times cleaner than Euro 5s – started hitting Brighton’s roads in 2015, and another 23 will be added to the fleet this year.
‘We’re also one of the few areas across England to be allocated funding from the government’s Clean Bus Technology Fund to retrofit buses so nitrogen oxide emissions will be reduced by up to 90%’, Martin told us.
Martin has brought in local engineering expertise so he can continually monitor and challenge the environmental performance of his fleet. He’s also commissioned research to test bus performance during actual journeys.‘The results inform our work with the council’, he told us. ‘We’ve been able to recommend re-modelling traffic light sequences and road layouts to get the best air quality.’
A city served by a fleet of green buses is all well and good – but only if its residents can be encouraged to leave their car keys at home.
Inspiring this kind of change is far from easy, but a wide choice of bus fares and a reliable service are proving key. More than 85% of Brighton and Hove Buses’ passengers get on a bus that runs at a frequency of 10 minutes or better, and the company uses offers to keep prices down for targeted groups of passengers.
‘We’re able to cross-subsidise less viable journeys – such as the less popular routes, those quieter times of the day and our growing night services – from our more profitable routes’, Martin explains. ‘Last year we were happy to help the council find vital savings, taking on several unsubsidised evening bus routes so passengers wouldn’t be left stranded. It made our network 100% commercial.’
A relentless advocacy of bus over car will always earn you some sustainability stripes, but it’s a small part of a big commitment at Brighton and Hove Buses.
Wireless energy management and LED lights have been fitted through the company’s buildings, and motion sensors and solar panels are being explored for some of the four depots. Electricity is monitored and energy consumption has reduced.
Everything from passenger and staff waste to staff uniforms is recycled, and harvested rainwater is used to flush toilets and wash buses. Every other hole in the jet washes has been blocked off in order to cut water consumption in half.
Making an impact that is less costly to the planet doesn’t, of course, come cheap to the business – but Martin believes the investment creates its own ‘virtuous circle’. ‘An improved reputation generates customers, which strengthens our business’, he explains. ‘That makes it possible for us to pay now so tomorrow’s residents won’t have to pay at all.’
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