From Reading Council Website:
Reading Buses and Reading Borough Council have today announced that the use of bio-ethanol buses in the town is to end due to unaffordable costs in the current economic climate.
The town's bus company has been using a fleet of 14 bio-ethanol powered buses on Reading 's best used bus service - Premier Route 17 - since the summer of 2008.
However the spiralling cost of bio-ethanol fuel has forced Reading Buses and Reading Borough Council to re-consider the scheme.
In view of the current economic climate, the bus company and the Borough Council have come to the conclusion that the jointly-run scheme is financially unsustainable at the current time.
It also emerged last week during discussions about fuel costs, that bio-ethanol E95 fuel - made from residues of softwood as a bi-product of pulp and paper manufacture - has been used to run the fleet, rather than bio-ethanol made from sugar waste as was originally agreed.
This issue only came to light last week during talks about the increasing costs of bio-ethanol fuel. Both Reading Borough Council and the Board of Reading Transport have now ordered an immediate enquiry into the circumstances which led to this change of supply.
Tony Page, Reading 's Lead Councillor for Transport and Planning, said: "It would appear that the Council has been grossly misled over this issue and I have instigated an investigation as to why and how this has happened, given the assurances that were provided to the Council and the Reading Transport Board about the source of the fuel."
Stuart Singleton-White, Chair of Reading Transport, added: "It is completely unacceptable that both the Board of Reading Buses and the Council have been deceived over the type of bio-ethanol fuel that has been used over the past year. We join the Borough Council in calling for an investigation of how this decision came about and why this information has only just emerged."
James Freeman, Chief Executive of Reading Buses, added: "I fully welcome a thorough investigation into this matter and will do all I can to contribute in order to establish the background and circumstances around which this decision was made with no reference to myself, the board or the shareholder. "
On the issue of costs of bio-ethanol fuel, although the current cost of a litre of bio-ethanol is just 2.61% more expensive than bio-diesel, the bio-ethanol powered buses are a massive 44.5% less fuel-efficient. This makes them more than twice as expensive to run as the cleanest bio-diesel powered bus.
At current prices, it means running Reading 's bus fleet on bio-ethanol fuel costs £590,000 over the year, in contrast to £236,000 on bio-diesel.
Rather than persevere with a scheme which could continue to drain public funds and in the longer term hit passengers in the pocket, the bio-ethanol buses will be converted to bio-diesel powered buses so they can be run at half the cost.
Mr Singleton-White said: "This decision has not been taken lightly, but in the current economic climate, we feel it is the only sensible option. Even after this change, Reading 's ultra-modern bus fleet will still be one of the least-polluting fleets in the country."
Cllr Tony Page added: "We are, of course, hugely disappointed that this decision has had to be made. However, we are in a position where the current economic climate means the disproportionate costs of running a bio-ethanol fleet are simply not sustainable. I can assure residents that this Council remains fully committed to continuing all the good work that has taken place to date in lowering carbon emissions in Reading ."