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Transport»Red light in the cab will keep Stagecoach drivers green on the buses

»Monday, April 19,2010

Bus drivers are being told to ease off the gas, change gear less often and brake less violently. And a flashing light system in the cab will tell them how they are doing: green for safe and efficient; amber for less efficient; and red for poor driving.

It is all the idea of Stagecoach, which says that it wants to save fuel — and help the environment.The bus and train operator said yesterday that it would introduce eco-driving techniques for all its 14,500 drivers through a recognised training course.

It is part of an £11 million investment that Stagecoach says will save 150,000 tonnes in carbon dioxide equivalent between now and 2014. The scheme is expected to pay for itself in the first two years, with savings increasing to £5 million a year by the end of the fifth year.

The Perth company wants to see an 8 per cent reduction in emissions from its buildings and a cut of 3 per cent in annual fleet transport emissions. A spokesman for Stagecoach said that two thirds of the £11 million investment would be spent in the next two years.

The company’s train networks and its trams in Manchester and Sheffield are also being targeted to reduced fuel consumption.

Stagecoach is working with Network Rail and rolling stock providers to reduce the use of electrical current for traction. It will do so by introducing a new system known as regenerative braking on many of the trains used on the South West network. This recovers the energy released in braking, which is usually lost in heat, and feeds it back into the supply system.

Three East Midlands railway stations — Derby, Nottingham and Leicester — where Stagecoach operates, will have new energy wardens appointed. Their job will be to make sure that passenger and company waste is recycled properly, that light and power is used responsibly and that retailers on stations platforms are persuaded to reduce their carbon footprints.

Brian Souter, group chief executive, said: “We have made significant progress in recent years in reducing our carbon footprint, but we believe more needs to be done. That is why we have developed a five-year investment programme with stretching targets for improvement.”

Stagecoach’s rivals, including First Group and Go-Ahead, have also been training bus drivers to use less fuel. Public transport companies faced huge fuel bills last year after hedging their consumption while oil was trading close to its peak price of $150 a barrel.

Although the oil price fell heavily in 2009 because of the global recession, public transport groups had to pay the rates they had struck in 2008. Fuel prices have doubled since January 2007 and more than quadrupled since 2002.

Industry experts have suggested that introducing electronic diagnostic devices that measure driver performance can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 12 per cent, but bus companies say that there are other factors, including the age of the bus and the type of environment it is run in.

A Stagecoach spokesman said: “The cost of fuel is just 15 per cent of the overhead, so there are lots of other factors, which mean it is difficult to simply say that this training or this device will reduce the cost of running a bus by so much. This is genuinely about reducing our carbon footprint and improving the passenger experience.”

In future, bus companies that can demonstrate superior environmental efficiency might also benefit from local authority grants. On the Continent, new rules forced bus companies to introduce engines that emit fewer harmful emissions, but they have turned out to be less fuel-efficient than the old engines.

All aboard with your chip fat

Behind the story

Angela Jameson

Brian Souter became an unlikely green hero when he first started using the recycled contents of chip pans to power eight Kilmarnock buses.

The company encouraged its customers to exchange used cooking oil for vouchers that entitle them to discounted bus travel. Using 100 per cent biofuel — mostly recycled tallow and cooking oil — Stagecoach said that it could cut CO2 emissions by 82 per cent.

Households on the bus route received a free container to recycle their cooking oil. When customers took it to East Ayrshire Council’s recycling plant, they were given bus ticket vouchers.

Stagecoach uses a blend of 5 per cent biodiesel in more than 4,300 vehicles, covering about 60 per cent of its UK bus fleet.

The company has also conducted trials of a bioethanol-fuelled bus to evaluate the technology that can use sugar beet to power vehicles.

Envirox, a fuel additive, is used across the UK fleet and will soon be introduced to the Canadian operations. The company says it has cut fuel consumption and emissions by 5 per cent.

First UK Bus has also been running trials in Bristol of a bus, known as the Chipper, powered by waste oil.





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