The launch of the Cross River Hybrid

The launch of the Cross River Hybrid

We were kindly invited to the launch of the brand new double-deck Cross River Hybrid buses at Arriva North West’s Laird Street depot in Birkenhead. These will be used on the high-frequency Wirral to Liverpool Cross River bus services.

You may remember that one year ago, I reported on the latest round of Green Bus Funding, in which Arriva Merseyside benefited hugely from the government grant, winning funding for a total of 44 double decked hybrid buses for Arriva North West, with 33 of them going to Arriva’s Birkenhead depot for use on Cross River services linking the Wirral with Liverpool.

The remaining 11 double-deck hybrids were intended for Arriva’s Manchester depot for route 10, however, the depot closed not long after the announcement, meaning the vehicles have been delivered to the route’s new operating centre, Bolton. Finally, Arriva also got funding for 10 single-deck gas buses for the busway circular services in Runcorn.

This is part of a massive investment of more than £26.7 million, and in fact, it represents the largest order of its type outside of London. Arriva is funding £22.2m of the investment with the remainder secured through the successful bids by Arriva to the government’s Green Bus Fund. The fund aims to help bus companies and authorities throughout England, helping them to purchase new low-carbon buses to increase the number of eco-friendly buses on England’s roads.

Lower saloon view of the Cross River Hybrid Volvo B5LH

The hybrid buses bid was supported by Merseytravel and is consistent with the aims to utilise emerging low-emissions technology. The 33 vehicles for the Cross River service are Volvo’s B5LH chassis married to the ever popular low-height Wright Gemini 2 bodywork and come complete with attractive additions such as free WiFi, on-board CCTV monitors, full rear LED displays and leather seating. Furthermore, their Hybrid credentials will also help to make a real difference to local air quality and especially throughout the Mersey Tunnels and into Liverpool city centre.

Upper saloon view of the Cross River Hyrbid Volvo B5LH

These 33 vehicles will be employed on the popular Cross River services which consist of the formerly branded Cross River Express network, which comprises of service 407, service 432, service 433, service 437, service 464, service 471 and service 472.

Drivers cab of the Cross River Hyrbid Volvo B5LH

I was very kindly invited to attend the significant launch of the Hybrid vehicles at Laird Street depot, which represents a huge investment into the local area, as well as aiming to bring people out of their cars and onto public transport, and option made all the more attractive with 33 brand new high spec vehicles to travel on.

Arriva had a specially designed livery for their ‘green’ buses to help passengers identify the environmentally friendly buses, and thus also recognising Arriva’s key roll in the local area by continuing to invest in the latest technology to combat the problem of air pollution across the Wirral Peninsula and surrounding areas.

“Arriva Merseyside is committed to delivering state-of-the-art buses for our customers, which not only make bus travel more attractive but which also make a real difference to local air quality. Cleaner fuelled vehicles are the future of sustainable transport and we are delighted to be introducing the hybrid buses to our fleet.”

— Howard Farrall, Arriva Area Managing Director

It is expected that the new electric-hybrid buses will see their first day on the road on the 24th March 2013, after the drivers have partaken in an Advanced Driver Training program, and after the vehicles have had their full livery applied and have been renumbered accordingly to the fleet list as well as the fitting of ticketing equipment.

What is a diesel electric-hybrid bus?
A hybrid vehicle is one that takes its power from more than one source. In the case of the Volvo B5LH diesel electric-hybrid buses, these two power sources are the traditional but much smaller diesel engine and an electric motor/generator powered by a 600-volt lithium-ion battery.

How do these hybrid buses work?
The Volvo B5LH chassis uses a parallel hybrid system to power the bus. This system enables the small diesel engine and electric motor to work independently or in combination with each other, depending on driving conditions, further reducing fuel consumption. The battery is charged using the electric motor that also acts as a generator, to capture the energy that would usually be lost as heat into the atmosphere during braking. This energy is stored in the battery for later use.

What makes this hybrid bus different from other buses?
The diesel engine and electric motor are used to power the vehicle. What makes these buses different from traditional buses is that both units can work independently or together. When the bus accelerates away from a bus stop, the electric motor works independently and uses the stored energy in the battery to power the bus. During this time, the diesel engine is shut down as it is not required. Not only does this save fuel, but it also removes emissions and noise pollution as the electric motor is virtually silent! It’s only when the bus reaches speeds of about 10mph (17kph) that the small diesel engine starts and works in combination with the electric motor to power the vehicle, giving the battery an opportunity to recharge during braking.

A further post will be published around the time the 33 electric-hybrid Volvo B5LH’s are entered into service on the Cross River Services. I’d like to thank the staff at Arriva Merseyside for their very welcoming approach, and for allowing us to report on such a significant investment into the North West.

Tom Harrison

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