What a year that was! Many will be glad to see the back of 2022, and it was certainly a difficult year for the bus industry, with lots of uncertainty and a number of high-profile industry casualties.
Two of the biggest ones, Bournemouth Transport (more commonly known as Yellow Buses) and HCT Group (a social enterprise like The Big Lemon) have a special place in The Big Lemon’s story. In the very early days of The Big Lemon, our fleet was at one stage exclusively made up of ex-Yellow Buses vehicles, three East Lancs Dennis Darts, registrations M451 LLJ, M455 LLJ and M461 LLJ. The main reason, obviously, was that apart from being available at the right time, these vehicles were already yellow. They served us well for a number of years, and one of them (M455 LLJ) has survived and has been put back into its original Yellow Buses livery by an enthusiast.
HCT Group became a part of our story for a different reason. As a well-established social enterprise with operations across the country and a strong record of social impact reporting, HCT Group became something of an inspiration to The Big Lemon. We first came across HCT at the UK Social Enterprise Awards in 2012, where their CEO, Dai Powell, won Social Enterprise Leader of the Year, and then again at the same awards in 2016, where we won Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year. HCT enjoyed a fantastic reputation in both the social enterprise community and the bus industry and for many years showed everyone what a real community bus service looked like. Their demise is a huge loss to the sector, but in a strange twist of fate it also created an opportunity for The Big Lemon to launch operations in Bristol and we are delighted that the old HCT team in Bristol helped us form our own team there.
For The Big Lemon, 2022 has been quite a milestone. It was the year we took supplies to Ukraine, the year we ran fully electric all day for the first time, and the year we launched The Big Lemon in other communities outside Brighton & Hove for the first time. We would like to thank all of our staff, our passengers, customers, suppliers and all those who have supported us and made the year a success. Thank you and Happy New Year!
January: The launch event for the second London to Brighton EV Rally on Brighton Seafront:
February: Staff training with a team photo in front of the old Gasworks:
March: Our coach company, Brighton Horizon Coaches, helped transport supplies donated to St Andrews Church in Hove, to London for delivery to Ukraine:
April: We worked with Sussex Homeless Support to collect supplies from people across Brighton & Hove, and then took them to Ukraine. We then brought refugees back to the UK on the way back:
May: Our annual Walking Holiday took us to St Martha’s Hill near Guildford, from where we walked along the Downs Link trail to Shoreham. over four days.
June: on Clean Air Day, 16th June, we ran a fully electric bus service all day on all our public bus routes for the first time – something we have been working towards since 2016:
…then a week later it was time for the second Big Lemon London to Brighton Electric Vehicle Rally:
July: We launched our EV Car Hire – for those trips that buses just can’t do!
August: Brighton Pride – our driver Debbie organised a bus to enable older and disabled members of the gay community to take part in the float. Our other driver, Mark, drove the bus while Debbie DJed:
September: For the first time since before Covid, we ran the buses once again for the annual Happy Startup Summer Camp – and what a happy weekend it was!
October: In 2017 we launched our 2030 Vision: to enable every community in the UK to have affordable public transport run with zero emissions vehicles powered by renewable energy and owned by the community. In June we managed to run all our Brighton routes with zero-emissions buses for the first time, and in October we took the first step towards bringing zero-emissions community bus services to other communities, with our launch in Bristol:
November: New projects are like buses – you wait ages and then two turn up at once! Following the launch of our bus services in Bristol in October, in November we launched in Bath as well:
December: And that’s it! Another year has passed, and after three Christmas parties we are now looking forward to 2023 🙂 Massive well done to our team and thank you all for your hard work; thank you to our passengers for your support and we wish you all a very Happy New Year!