Electric buses now in service in Milton Keynes

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You can’t miss them... well, hopefully not, if you’re trying to get to your destination on time.

The first of the city’s new bright green and blue electric buses went into service on the number 7 route on Sunday and, as yet, there have been no reported problems.

As the UK’s guinea pig for the first all-electric bus route, Milton Keynes has yet another reason to hold its head high – provided it proves successful of course.

The scheme is designed to test whether or not electric buses can perform on a par with their diesel counterparts in a ‘real-world’ operational environment.

The buses will run for five years in a carefully monitored demonstration programme, that will assess the technical and commercial viability of the buses.

Eight electric buses will eventually take over the busy number 7 route, running for 17 hours a day, seven days a week, with each bus covering over 56,000 miles per year.

Four are already in service, with a fifth likely to be on the streets by the end of this week, followed by the remaining three towards the end of the month, according to Arriva.

The plan is to introduce the buses into service gradually, in case of any teething problems.

The buses have a special technological advantage to help the vehicles meet the rigours of the route – one of the busiest in the city – wireless charging.

Instead of plugging into the mains, the buses will be able to recharge batteries wirelessly at two charge points at either end of the route in Bletchley and Wolverton.

The concept is simple – wireless charging plates set into the road at either end of the route in Wolverton and Bletchley will transfer power directly to the receiving plates underneath.

Peter Ballantyne, chairman of the city’s bus users group, says he is optimistic about the plans, but thinks the success of the scheme can only really be judged after the buses have been in service for three months.

“I think the technology is amazing,” he said. “We have done some tests with Arriva and have been very impressed with the way the buses run – they’re very quiet, have good power pick-up and I think the passengers will really enjoy it.

“What we look at is reliability over a period, that’s why this is being run for five years, to make sure the technology is robust enough to provide more data and information for longer term usage.

“We think Milton Keynes is very lucky to be the chosen place.”

Mr Ballantyne believes it is inevitable that one or more of the buses will break down at some point, but he says the early feedback he has received from passengers is positive.

“Lots of people want to get on them to see what they’re like,” he said. “The thing that people are most commenting about is how quiet they are.

“But, of course, that isn’t good for everyone. We would like to have sound introduced into the buses so that people with limited sight can hear them coming.

“Overall the first few days have been good, but we’ll have a better idea by the autumn time.”