Richard Holden MP, Minister for Roads and Local Transport

Roads and local transport minister Richard Holden refuelling one of the buses

A hydrogen refuelling station and a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses have been introduced by The Go-Ahead Group to carry passengers on routes in the Gatwick Airport, Crawley and Horley area.

When fully delivered, the fleet will comprise 54 vehicles and will be one of the biggest hydrogen bus fleets in Britain. It will be served by a liquid hydrogen refuelling station – the largest of its kind in Europe.

The zero emission buses are able to cover long ranges and carry heavy loads, making them ideal for local routes around Gatwick that are intensively used - operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The single-decker Hydroliner buses, manufactured by Wrightbus, are the first hydrogen powered vehicles in Go-Ahead’s fleet of more than 6,000 buses. Hydrogen will be stored at the Metrobus Crawley depot in liquid form, before being converted to gas held in tanks on the roof of vehicles.

The liquid hydrogen refuelling station in Crawley is owned and operated by industrial gas company Air Products. Once it reaches full capacity it is claimed it will be the largest of its kind in Europe and will be capable of providing the equivalent of fuel for over 100 buses per day.

Speaking at the launch of the new buses, minister for roads and local transport Richard Holden said: “Communities and commuters across the country know how important buses are – and these UK-made hydrogen buses could revolutionise transport for millions, bringing quieter and smoother journeys.

“It is great to see these 20 new hydrogen buses on our roads, one of the largest fleets in the UK, backed by over £4.3m of funding from our Ultra-Low Emission Bus scheme. With nearly 3,400 zero emission buses funded across the UK since February 2020, this latest fleet puts us well on the way to meeting our target of 4,000 ZEBs.”

Ed Wills, managing director for Brighton & Hove and Metrobus, said “I am delighted to introduce 20 new hydrogen buses to our Metrobus fleet and a liquid hydrogen refuelling station, which, once fully commissioned will be the largest of its kind in Europe.

“This launch marks a historic moment for our business and demonstrates our commitment to reducing emissions in the local community where the only thing that comes out of the bus tailpipe is water. A further 34 buses will join our fleet over the next 18 months through our partnership working with Surrey County Council.

Christian Schreyer, Group Chief Executive, The Go-Ahead Group, commented: “These fantastic buses and the innovative refuelling depot demonstrate Go-Ahead’s commitment to investing in a net zero future for transport. We’re already the leading operator of electric buses in Britain and we believe hydrogen is a further piece in the jigsaw of decarbonising public transport – to the benefit of the environment and local communities.”

Manish Patel, Air Products hydrogen for mobility director UK, commented: “We are proud to be part of this exciting project, where we intend to deliver green hydrogen produced in Immingham from imported renewable energy sources such as the NEOM Green Hydrogen project, where there’s an abundance of sun and wind. The project is an excellent example of companies collaborating and pioneering in the energy transition space. Together, we are making the decarbonisation of public transport a reality; our liquid hydrogen-fed refuelling station will be able to reliably serve the depot’s full fleet.”

Jean-Marc Gales, chief executive of Wrightbus, said, “We are honoured to work together with the Go-Ahead Group to provide our industry-leading zero-emission buses for these important routes. Public transport is a key area in the UK’s zero carbon ambitions and hydrogen has a vital role to play. Collaborations such as this one show the potential of UK industry to meet this challenge that we face.”