Sunday 31st October 2021
While I was in Scotland on Monday and Tuesday after my Lumo journey north to Edinburgh I took a ride over to Glasgow to see how preparations for COP26 were impacting the city.
Unsurprisingly, it was huge. And this was still a few days away from today’s start of the summit’s proceedings.
Goodness knows what pollution levels were like from the traffic gridlock stretching almost all around the city centre with many road closures pushing traffic on to other roads which struggled to cope.
As it is Glasgow ‘s central area is characterised by the polluting M8 and M74 pretty much encircling it and not much was moving on these nor the city’s other arterial roads.
First Bus, McGills and Stagecoach along with other operators were doing their best but late running and cancellations seemed to be endemic. First’s high profile route 500 running between Glasgow Airport and Glasgow city centre, already on a reduced 30 minute frequency, and on which no doubt many delegates were presumably arriving in the city, having flown in, was badly disrupted with journey times at least doubled if not more and widened gaps in service.
It wasn’t giving a very good first impression to overseas visitors coming to talk about limiting our impact on the environment and in turn the climate.
But there again, neither would the UK Government’s recent pronouncements, not least the Chancellor’s Budget on Wednesday when he failed to mention climate change as he reduced passenger air duty on internal flights (the last thing that should be happening) and for yet another year maintained the freeze on fuel duty for ‘hard pressed’ motorists. The 58p per litre duty frozen since 2010/11 should be 73p today if it had risen with inflation, never mind subjected to real price increases as has applied to rail fares over these years. A litre of petrol at the pumps instead of retailing for a typical £1.41 with inflation should be £1.56 (or more likely 155.9p to make it seem less). And the Treasury would benefit from around £900 million more tax revenue each year.
This, coupled with the Government’s £27 billion road building programme, really does make a mockery of any serious intent to deal with climate change as far as emissions from transport are concerned.
Still, let’s not get too depressed, despite all this, Glasgow’s central grid street pattern, where restricted to buses and access traffic, was fortunately performing fairly well earlier this week and it was good to see all three major bus companies creating a positive impression with smart looking clean buses being well used.
Indeed First Glasgow were showing off their latest investment in electric buses on a special shuttle service for delegates to the conference venues. Their fleet of 22 new BYD ADL buses are being used on this official COP26 shuttle service.
First Glasgow’s huge Caledonian depot in the city has been designed to eventualy be able to accommodate 300 electric buses with no less than 150 planned for introduction over the next 18 months. That’s impressive.
What really stood out for me on Monday and Tuesday was the significant investment McGills is currently making in electric buses.
McGills dominates the bus scene to the west of Glasgow with operations covering large parts of North Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire.
The company lays claim to being the largest independent bus company in the UK being owned by the Easdale family and a fleet size of around 600 vehicles. Its recent acquisition of the former NatEx owned Xplore Dundee boosted fleet size and turnover.
It’s Chief Executive Officer Ralph Roberts uninhibited by a Group corporate PR strait jacket limiting what can and can’t be said is a great public voice for the bus industry forever promoting the important role buses play in the economic and social life of cities and calling out those who misguidedly reckon it’s about ownership and regulation rather than bus priority and enforcement.
McGills is very committed to electric buses having ordered 22 Yutong E12 buses with funding support from the first round of the Scottish Ultra Low Emission Bus (SULEB) Fund followed quickly by a further oder of 33 similar vehicles in the second SULEB round. Another 12 electric buses have been ordered for Dundee.
The first of these have been entering service over the last few weeks and Ralph reckons “we will have more electric buses by the time of the COP26 summit than all other operators in Scotland combined”.
McGills converted its busy route 26 running between Glasgow , Braehead, Renfrew and Paisley to Nethercraigs electric operation at the beginning of the month followed more recently by route 38 (every 5 minutes from Glasgow direct via Cardonald to Paisley and Johnstone) and on Friday officially launched the buses on to the third route, the 23.
I took a ride on route 38 to Paisley on Monday leaving Glasgow city centre in the peak with a good load on board. A lot of thought has gone into making the buses look the part with an updated branding for the company as a whole as well as branding for this and the other two routes being electrified using a swish ‘switch’ logo…
… and letting us know we’re “now a zero hero”.
I’ve reviewed the Yutong buses from a customer perspective before – as operated by First Leeds, Leicester Park and Ride and Go North East – and like the latter, these buses look the part with well designed interiors …
… comfortable seating…
… with good leg room.
And the usual usb sockets, these being in seat backs with a little flip cover over the socket when not in use.
I travelled back from Paisley into Glasgow early on Tuesday morning. Having waited for two consecutive journeys that didn’t arrive on route 26 (I’m guessing the driver shortage is impacting McGills like many other bus companies and it’s something I’m becoming accustomed to all over the country) I opted for a ride on route 38 again but this time travelled on a Mercedes Citaro to compare and contrast.
It was a rather wet morning and I was impressed that the windows stayed clear without the usual misting up, although there was a slight leak from the grill in the roof at the back …
… but for a seven year old bus it still gave a decent and comfortable ride into the city.
However, it wasn’t nearly as good as the ride out the previous evening on the electric bus. You really do notice the difference, not least the quietness of the transmission rather than the noise of the Mercedes engine, especially sitting at the back.
I do hope delegates at the COP26 summit get the time to take a ride or two on McGills new electric buses.
They’ll give a good impression.