WOKING Community Transport is hoping to become the first service of its kind in the country to operate zero-emission, electrically powered mini buses.
WCT, which is best known for its Bustler Dial-a-Ride service with its distinctive yellow minibuses, wants to buy up to three Orion E vehicles from Mellor Coachcraft in Rochdale. It already has diesel equivalent of the Orion.
However the Orion E costs about £150,000, which is double that of the diesel minibus. The Orion range is designed for community transport services which seats that can be easily removed to accommodate wheelchairs and is fully accessible with ramps at the wide side door and the rear doors.
WCT, based at the Moorcroft Centre in Old School Place, is pinning its hopes on a £1 million fund from the Department for Transport for electric vehicles. At the moment the money is for buses, but WCT is hoping that the definition can be extended to include minibuses.
The plan has the backing of Woking MP Jonathan Lord, who attended a presentation at Moorcroft that included the plan to buy the electrically powered vehicles.
Mr Lord said after the presentation: “I completely understand the arguments that Woking Community Transport is making about the need for zero emission minibuses that are affordable.
“I will make these points strongly to Government Ministers to see if the government subsidies currently available on large buses can also be made available for smaller buses.”
WCT chief executive Guy Padfield-Wilkins said that as the minibuses operate only during the day, the electric vehicles could be recharged from a domestic 13amp socket overnight. The vehicles have a range of nearly 100 miles. Mr Padfield-Wilkins said the infrastructure costs would be minimal and that the cost benefit would take around seven years after the initial outlay. Not only was there saving on fuel, but the servicing costs of electric vehicles is considerably less than that for diesel ones.
“If we were able to buy three, then we could operate a shuttle service with a reserve vehicle,” he said.
Dial-a-Ride is open to anyone who experience pain or difficulties using public transport. It is free to join but there is a small charge for the service, which operates door-to-door. The fares are about a third of the true cost, because it is funded mostly by Woking Borough Council with contributions from Surrey County Council and various contracts.
The drivers help passengers from their front door on to the minibus, making sure they have their keys and all the possessions they are intending to take. They will make sure the passengers reach their destinations safely before driving on.
The drivers are a combination of employees and volunteers.