Since March, transport operator First West of England has been trialling a single-deck 40-seat ‘Bio-Bus’ on Bristol’s number 2 route.

And following the success of that pilot, First West has announced plans to roll out 110 poo-powered buses, with fellow operator Wessex Bus also hoping to run a 20-strong fleet.

First West’s Bristol general manager Jenny MacLeod said: “All 110 double decker Bio-Buses will operate in Bristol, representing almost half the fleet!

“Our extensive network in Bristol means that we can really make a difference to those areas that really need it. It will revolutionise the entire public transport network in Bristol.”

All aboard

The Bio-Bus is capable of travelling up to 300km at a time on biomethane, generated through the treatment of sewage and food waste. Engineers believe it could provide a sustainable way of fuelling public transport – producing fewer emissions than diesel-powered vehicles and helping improve air quality in towns and cities.

As well as not using fossil fuels, Bio-Buses emit 97% less dangerous particulate emissions, 80-90% fewer nitrogen oxides and up to 30% less CO2.

A recent report from UN University estimated that biogas extracted from worldwide human waste could have a value of up to $9.5bn as a natural gas equivalent.

First West and Wessex Bus have both submitted bids for funding from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles’ (OLEV’s) Low Emission Bus Scheme.

Wessex Bus and GENeco

Recycling and renewable energy company GENeco – which is responsible for the running of Bristol sewage treatment works where the gas is first generated –  has partnered with Wessex Bus on its bid.

The GENeco general manager Mohammed Saddiq said if the bid was successful, work to build a permanent refuelling station at Bristol sewage treatment works in Avonmouth would start immediately.

“Our plans are for the buses to run in areas of Bristol and Bath that have the poorest air quality,” he said. “The majority would refuel at our treatment plant, but we will also look to provide a mobile refuelling unit that could be used by Wessex Bus at depots other than their Avonmouth site.

“It would significantly cut emissions harmful to human health and because the buses will run on gas from renewable sources, it means each gas bus would have an 80% less carbon footprint than a typical diesel bus.”

Tourist attraction

Saddiq said the Bio-Bus had attracted worldwide interest and become a focal point for visitors, overseas government officials and media who travelled to the city as part of it being European Green Capital for 2015.

He added: “While many passengers see the fun side of the Bio-Bus with its eye-catching livery, it’s fair to say that people genuinely like to know that the bus is sustainably powered and better for the environment.”

Bristol has used its year as an environmental paragon to launch a new sustainability education tool for primary schools, open its first-ever community solar farm and upgrade the efficiency of 20,000 street lamps.

The Bio Bus explained

Brad Allen

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