Transport secretary Grant Shapps was scheduled to join Wrightbus owner on a webinar today to launch a new pro-hydrogen report

 
Jo Bamford: ‘This report is further evidence that hydrogen’s time is now’

 
Wrightbus owner and JCB heir Jo Bamford is maintaining pressure on the government to back his hydrogen bus vision with a new report sponsored by his Ryse Hydrogen venture.

Bamford rescued Northern Ireland-based Wrightbus from administration last year. He saw an opportunity to combine the company’s expertise in producing hydrogen-fuelled vehicles, which saw it build the world’s first hydrogen double decker bus, with Oxford-based Ryse’s experience in hydrogen production and refuelling.

In April, Bamford put forward a vision for a UK-built, 3,000-strong hydrogen bus fleet across the country, arguing that zero carbon, UK-made hydrogen technologies must play a pivotal role in driving the UK economy forward.

In May, he was among the signatories of a letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps that challenged the government’s “deliberate” and “misjudged” bias against hydrogen buses in its pursuit of decarbonising public transport.

The momentum of the campaign has been sustained this month with Ryse Hydrogen sponsoring the publication of a new report from the Centre for Policy Studies, the centre-right think tank.

Jo Bamford’s father, Lord Bamford, is a director of the think tank, which was co-founded by Margaret Thatcher. The wealth of the JCB chairman and managing director was estimated at £4.7bn in The Sunday Times Rich List of May 2020 and he is a major donor to the Conservative Party, providing £3.9m during last year’s general election campaign.

The Centre for Policy Studies report, ‘Driving Change’: How Hydrogen Can Fuel A Transport Revolution, calls for hydrogen to be given a much bigger role in transport decarbonisation by using the UK bus fleet as a testbed for the technology.

Grant Shapps had been scheduled to join Jo Bamford and others on a webinar today to launch the report. However, with the transport secretary providing today’s Downing Street briefing, this event has been postponed.

I welcome the work done by the CPS and others to come up with new and innovative ways to deliver on this government’s ambitious decarbonisation agenda

“As we begin the road to recovery from Covid-19 and rebuild our economy and infrastructure I am clear we can’t just go back to how we were before,” Shapps said this week.

“We have the opportunity to create a more prosperous, stronger and greener country and transport will be at the heart of that.

“Therefore, I welcome the work done by the CPS and others to come up with new and innovative ways to deliver on this government’s ambitious decarbonisation agenda.”

Driving Change argues that embracing hydrogen would also give the UK an opportunity to lead the world in a vital sector and create thousands of green jobs – at a time when other economies are moving quickly to seize the global hydrogen market.

The report also points out that the UK will likely need a hydrogen infrastructure to help decarbonise other sectors, such as domestic heating and industrial processes, “so it makes sense to lay the groundwork now – and ensure that the UK is at the forefront of a new, low-carbon industry with significant export potential”.

The report contains a range of specific recommendations, including:

  • Setting out a UK-wide hydrogen strategy before COP26, and establishing a cross-departmental working group.
  • Ensure that the UK develops an adequate hydrogen infrastructure, including investment via the government’s clean energy funds.
  • Setting a target of 2038 for the UK bus fleet to become zero-emission.
  • Developing individual strategies within the Transport Decarbonisation Plan for decarbonising HGVs and LGVs, buses, trains, shipping and aviation.
  • Reforming the Bus Service Operators Grant and Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation.
  • Introducing clean air targets in line with WHO guidelines and strengthening Clean Air Zones.

If we fail to act, we will become importers rather than exporters of another green technology required to get us to net zero, just as we did with wind turbines and batteries

Jo Bamford commented: “This report is further evidence that hydrogen’s time is now and that we need support for UK industry, UK jobs, and a product which can be made and used entirely on these shores.

“If we fail to act, we will become importers rather than exporters of another green technology required to get us to net zero, just as we did with wind turbines and batteries. It’s simply a matter of which country will be the first to capture the industrial opportunities of acting first. China, Australia and Germany to name a few are all moving quickly, and only last week the EU announced a multi-billion Euro package to support green hydrogen infrastructure.

“With hydrogen-electric buses entering service in major UK cities this year, the UK is primed and ready to lead the race.”

Last month, the UK’s largest bus builder, Alexander Dennis Limited, announced a its own vision for the transformation of buses in the UK, which proposed to have at least 10,000 new low, ultra low and zero emission buses in service within the next four years.

ADL maintains that battery electric buses are “available in volume supported by proven expertise in rolling out fleets”. Hydrogen buses “will play a role for routes requiring additional range and they will be ready when a fuelling infrastructure and a sustainable supply of green hydrogen have been put in place”.

 
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