OPINION: COP a load of our local green agenda - Alex Hornby, Harrogate Bus Company

It would be remiss of me not to talk about climate change, given the huge COP26 climate conference leading the UK and world’s news coverage this week.

Thursday, 4th November 2021, 5:39 pm

I can’t promise a transcript worthy of Sir David Attenborough’s rousing opening speech, but hopefully it won’t be snoozeworthy and I won’t promise to allow you to catch up with some ZZZs as Boris Johnson and Joe Biden managed to during the conference either.

It causes us bus people quite a bit of distress that COP26 news coverage focusing on transport is dominated by electric cars, much of which points out that we are far from being prepared to adopt them as an ideal going forward.

The range-anxiety, or rather the lack-of-charging-point-anxiety well covered by a number of travelogues recently demonstrates that the UK has a long way to go before electric cars become a practical and affordable solution.

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Reports suggest we need up to 1.5 million charging points by 2030, the date when diesel and petrol cars will be banned from sale in the UK.

To put this into perspective, currently we are installing new points nationwide at a rate of just 7,000 per year.

Meanwhile here on the buses, we have plans to continue our work on conversion to an fully electric, 100 per cent zero emission fleet within fouryears, to the extent that our ultimate aim is to rip out the diesel fuel tank here at our depot in Starbeck.

The big concern around the obsession with, and false return of, electric cars is that they’ll do nothing to improve one of the biggest bugbears of living in Harrogate – they’ll add to congestion just like petrol and diesel cars do.

We are also not foolish enough to assume that a fleet of electric buses – as proud as we all should be of them – is going to get everyone rushing out of their houses and parking up their cars in droves.

They need to be so good that you’ll want to choose to be seen on them, and be proud to show off that you are a bus user.

We have achieved this before on the 36 and with our current Harrogate Electrics; even to the extent that homes for sale listings proclaim that their properties are on an electric bus route.

To complete the package, we want more certainty of delivering buses on time through the traffic and making the journey as comfortable and friendly as possible.

We know we need to do our bit too and carry on beating increased expectations.

The recent Harrogate Climate Action Festival and Net Zero Business Conference demonstrated the strength of local ambition we have on this important issue.

Again, as a town we punched well above our weight in terms of the talent, skills, vision and expertise we have, proving again we aren’t just a town with proud traditions - here in Harrogate, we are also firmly looking to the future with confidence.

Maybe Sir David, Boris, Joe and the rest of the gang should have come to Harrogate instead.