New funding for gas-powered taxis as minister opens gas station

Baroness Kramer, Minister of State at the Department for Transport, has officially opened Reading Buses’ new £1 million gas compression station. The Minister, who has responsibility for the bus industry, revealed a special plaque to mark the occasion at the Great Knollys Street depot today, Monday September 8.

James Freeman, Chief Executive Officer of Reading Transport said: “We are highly delighted that the Minister has come to Reading Buses. This underlines the importance of our unique investment in improving the environmental performance of local buses.

“It is also evidence of official interest in the development of buses powered by compressed bio-methane. Not only do we have one of the biggest fleets of vehicles powered by bio-methane in the country, but we have the largest – and most comprehensive – fuel compression storage and delivery system in the UK bus industry.

“Every night 34 buses fill up with gas which is drawn from the mains into a complex that compresses the gas from 2 bar to 250 bar and puts it into storage. As the buses draw up to the pumps the gas is drawn off into them, in the same way as we fill other buses with diesel fuel.”

Mr Freeman added: “We have every reason to be proud of our progress in meeting the green travel agenda of Reading Borough Council and indeed the country as a whole.

“Together with our 31 hybrids the 34 gas buses – and all supporting infrastructure – are a clear statement of our commitment to improving the environment. At the same time, we are making sure that our users know that they are equally making a great decision every time they ride on one of our buses.”

Baroness Kramer said: “I’m also pleased to announce today that as we’re talking about ‘clean air’ we are making available from an investment from our ‘Clean Vehicle Technology Fund’ (CVTF), which is to help councils adopt cutting edge technology to upgrade various vehicles. We are awarding Reading £360,000 which will see more than 100 local taxis run on gas hybrid fuel, so this is yet another achievement very much driven by the council, the community and the cutting edge approach which Reading has adopted to the improvement of it’s air. The Department has been glad to be a part of this; congratulations to everyone concerned.”

Speaking about today’s announcement, Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:

“The opportunity for Reading’s black cab drivers to convert their vehicles to gas is the latest in a long line of Council initiatives aimed at providing environmentally friendly transport options for the town.

“We have presented this proposal to the local taxi association which resulted in a very positive reaction, from both the association and individual taxi drivers. The hybrid conversion system is predicted to significantly reduce operating costs for drivers and we therefore anticipate a strong demand for the grant scheme.

“Reading Buses is leading the way in this area with nearly 40% of their buses either hybrid or gas powered – the largest proportion of any fleet in the country. I am delighted the Council has now been successful in ensuring the town’s black cab fleet can follow suit. Along with other Council initiatives, such as ReadyBike and a new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Thames, Reading as a town can be proud of the sustainable transport options on offer.”

CNG has traditionally been used for larger vehicles only, such as HGVs or buses, but advances in technology now mean a new and innovative CNG injection system is much more effective at blending CNG and diesel in different driving conditions.

Under the initiative, Reading Borough Council will administer a grant scheme to award funding to individual taxi drivers for the purchase of the hybrid conversion for their vehicle.

The grant will only be available for TX4 type taxis, as older models cannot be converted. At present there are 113 out of 223 black cabs in Reading which can be converted, but it is hoped that some drivers with older taxis may consider purchasing a TX4 to be eligible for the CNG conversion.

Reading Borough Council has agreed that Reading Buses will allow taxi drivers daytime access to their depot to refuel their vehicles between 9am and 5pm, and overnight access (by appointment only) between midnight and 7am. Reading Buses has also committed to supply CNG at market rate.

Monitoring of the project will be undertaken through ‘before and after’ emissions testing on an evaluation vehicle, and further emission tests at six and twelve months after the initial conversion.

Today’s event was co-hosted by the Gas Vehicle Alliance who have designed and overseen the infrastructure and Scania (Great Britain) Limited, who in turn have manufactured the gas-powered buses.