The traffic is heavy, even though the worst of the morning rush hour is over. All the buses on the number 76 route between Waterloo Station and Tottenham in northern London are Volvo's hybrid buses. They are equipped with two power sources - a diesel engine and an electric motor, which work together.
"I had no idea. That's really good!" says Frank Randall. "I have a hybrid car, so I'm really in favour of this. It's good for the environment," he says.
He is on his way to a meeting and prefers to take the bus rather than the underground. It is easier and faster, according to him. Next to Frank sits Charlie Knight, listening to music on his headset. He is used to travelling by bus. For more than 10 years, he has been commuting by bus from his home near Waterloo Station to his job at a bank.
"It takes a maximum of 10 minutes and it's smooth and efficient. The underground is crowded, hot and dirty. The bus is far more pleasant," he says and is as surprised as Frank to discover that he is travelling on a hybrid bus. "That makes it even better," he says.
Caroline Bodley, on the other hand, is well aware of the type of vehicle in which she is travelling. She works at the Transport Museum in London and is enthusiastic about the hybrid bus. She points at the information sign inside the bus.
"It provides clear information about Volvo's hybrid buses. Perhaps I have noticed it, as I am particularly interested," she says. "This is vital for the environment in London. It would be best if all the buses were hybrids, as that would make the air cleaner," she adds.
Transport for London is responsible for all public transport in this city with its population of almost eight million. It has chosen hybrid buses as an important step towards making the city cleaner. For several years, it has been running field tests in London, using different bus brands, and, according to Edward Jobson, head of environmental affairs at Volvo Buses, Volvo's hybrid vehicles have been extremely successful.
"We are well ahead of the competition when it comes to fuel consumption, for example. Volvo's buses produce fuel savings of 34 per cent, while the closest competitor has 27 per cent. What's more, our buses get the best ratings when it comes to availability. During the measurements that lasted for seven months, we had 98 per cent availability. None of our competitors came anywhere near that!" he says.
Thanks to these excellent results, Volvo Buses is selling not only hybrid double-deckers to London and the rest of the UK but also a large number of the 12-metre Volvo 7700 Hybrid bus all over the world. Orders are pouring in and have now surpassed 300. Spain, Finland, Norway, Mexico, Germany and Brazil are just some of the countries placing orders. The family-owned Sales-Lentz in Luxembourg is another customer.
"They began with one bus, then five more and they have now placed an order for a further five," says Edward Jobson at a meeting with Global Magazine at his office in Gothenburg. He shows us the Sales-Lentz website on the internet. "They are investing in a green profile and so they advertise Volvo's hybrid buses on their website. That's great for us!" he says, with a smile.
The bus company Arriva operates Volvo's hybrid buses on the number 76 route in London on behalf of Transport for London. Arriva has a total of 46 Volvo hybrid buses in its fleet and 26 of them operate on the number 76 route. To begin with, Tony Ward, technical director at Arriva, was a little worried when the field tests were due to be run.
"We have a million passengers every day on this route. The number 76 route is one of our busiest, with departures every six minutes. So nothing could be allowed to go wrong," he says and goes on to say that Volvo Buses exceeded everyone's expectations. "I am really very pleased! I have absolutely no complaints. The collaboration during the field tests has worked extremely well, the service and support are fantastic and the buses really deliver what they promise, when it comes to both the environment and the comfort," he says.
From Waterloo Station in central London, it takes about 40 minutes to get to Tottenham. In a number of places, there are special bus lanes that enable the red double-deckers to get through even more smoothly. One of Arriva's 15 garages in London is situated not far from the terminus in Tottenham.
|Bus driver Luis Felipe Ramirentz is busy checking his bus prior to his final trip. He has been driving buses for just over three years.
"It's far easier to steer compared with many other bus models. What's more, the braking system is in a class of its own. It responds directly and makes braking smoother at the same time. I trust this bus and feel secure," he says, adding that having a hybrid bus is obviously good for the environment. "However, for me as a driver, the working environment is my first consideration," he says and settles into the driver's seat. "I have to leave or the timetable will suffer," he says.
Link: ARRIVA London