Happy New Year from The Big Lemon!

We’d like to wish all our passengers and friends a wonderful New Year! As we move into the New Year we cast our minds back over the year just gone, and oh, what a year it was…

Team Lemon Brighton 2018
All the Lemons together…

More than most years, 2018 has been one of highs and lows – some great progress, but also some really difficult challenges. One thing became clear in 2018 in business as in politics – the old rules no longer apply. Some of our biggest costs have risen by eye-watering amounts, and some of our income streams of the past are no longer big earners, so we have had to adapt accordingly.

And after using biodiesel from recycled waste cooking oil to power our buses and coaches for over ten years, last year that became no longer possible due to all the Sussex suppliers no longer supplying, and our London supplier selling out to a Liverpool-based one who only delivers in 33,000 litre batches. As (i) we have nowhere to store such large quantities, (ii) there seem to be no suppliers left who can supply smaller quantities, and (iii) most vehicles are no longer able to run on it due to to modern fuel-injection methods; we’ve had to accept that the use of biodiesel is no longer an option for us.

However, 2018 was also a year of great progress towards our vision for sustainable transport run by zero-emission vehicles powered by renewables and owned by the community, and it was also a lot of fun…

2018 was the year we smashed our £0.5m fundraising target for new electric buses, and placed an order for four brand new
zero-emissions buses from Optare which will enable us to run all our public bus services with zero-emissions vehicles. But due to a fire in the factory where the electric drive systems were being manufactured, they are three months late which means we couldn’t launch them in November as we’d hoped. Hey ho, worst things have happened, we’ll launch them in February instead. Watch this space!

Big Lemon new electric bus Brighton & Hove
One of our new buses being built in the factory just outside Leeds

2018 was also the year we did our first Walking Holiday – and what a lot of fun that was! Over the early May bank holiday we walked from Winchester to Amberley along the South Downs Way, completing the section we hadn’t already done on our Sunday Walks the previous year when we did Amberley to Eastbourne in bite-sized chunks. We have another holiday planned for this year – why not come with us?

Big Lemon walking holiday fun
Big Lemon walking holiday fun 🙂

Another highlight of 2018 include re-launching the Happy Bus scheme and taking a group of Aphasia sufferers to Heaven Farm for a day out, and also supporting someone fighting deportation by taking a coach full of his friends to his court hearing in London. The Happy Bus is our way of giving something back to the community; it provides a free bus for someone in need to help to spread joy and happiness all around 🙂

And the craziest moment in 2018 was when we found out one of our buses on rail replacement work had ended up on Reddit’s front page – the front page of the internet, with over 71,000 ‘upvotes’ – Reddit Karma – on the site! Following this the Argus newspaper did a feature of all our weird and wonderful drivers’ personalised bus destination screens…

Each driver has their own screen they can use when they’re out of service…

But the most fun of 2018 was had in the water! We joined forces with Brighton’s Dental Health Spa to enter a team in the Paddle Round the Pier raft race – and came second!

Happiness is a ride on The Big Lemon… in the water!

So what’s in store for 2019? This year our main focus will be on making our 2030 Vision a reality in Brighton & Hove, and developing a business model fit for the future to enable us to take this out to communities outside the city so that by 2030 every community in the UK has access to affordable, sustainable transport, using zero-emissions vehicles powered by renewable energy and owned by the local community.

Would you like to be part of our story and help make this happen?

Thank you for you support and all the best for a very Happy New Year!

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