Electric bus target reached – and extended!

Last month The Big Lemon launched a £405,000 bond offer to raise money for three new electric buses, which together with a fourth bus that is being retrofitted from diesel to electric, will enable The Big Lemon to run its network of six public bus services in Brighton & Hove with fully electric, zero emissions vehicles powered by solar panels on the roof of the bus depot.

img_1247

Bonds were offered on a three year term at 4%, and a five year term at 5%, with a minimum investment of £100.

Three weeks in, and three weeks before the offer closes, the target has been reached and the three new buses have been ordered. They will enter service in the autumn.

“I’d like to say a massive thank you to all those who have invested in this project. It’s exciting to be on the verge of creating the UK’s first fully electric public bus network in Brighton & Hove and this will make a huge difference to air quality in the city.

“From a personal perspective the success of this campaign is very exciting as it shows that communities do not need big business or the banks to fund the improvements they so desperately need – people power can do it too. Because of the huge response we’ve had we’re extending our plans to cover one more bus which will enable us to ensure the network is fully electric even when a vehicle is having its 4 weekly maintenance inspection”

Tom Druitt, Chief Executive

The Big Lemon has extended the target by another £135,000 to fund the extras bus and is offering both shares and bonds to members of the public.

The project is part of The Big Lemon’s vision 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. It is supported by the Department for Transport and Brighton & Hove City Council.

So why have people been so keen to invest?

It is an ethical business which I would like to see succeed, and it pays a decent interest rate.

Alistair

I want to see cleaner, quieter streets with air fit to breathe

Stephanie

This is the future of city transport.

Sue

This is a company with a great philosophy which is leading the way and deserves support

Roger and Margaret

Our daughter lives in Brighton and thinks we should

Barbara

Would you like to invest in our Solar Bus Bonds and help bring more zero-emissions electric buses to Brighton & Hove?

For a Solar Bus Bond Prospectus please click on the image below:

Bond Prospectus

All investments are covered by our Solar Bus Bond Agreements:

If you’d like to invest in our Solar Bus Bonds please complete the fields below:

Upon receipt of your application we will send you a Bond Agreement to sign and an invoice for the funds with details of how to transfer the funds.

Upon receipt of your funds we will issue a bond certificate within 14 days. Your certificate will be dated the date of receipt of your funds and your investment will be returned to you at the end of the term. Interest will be paid annually, with the final payment on maturation

We reserve the right to refuse investments and we do not need to give a reason. The Big Lemon does not give financial advice and you are advised to seek independent financial advice on your investments.

This community bond issue falls outside the scope of regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

The Big Lemon CIC is Registered in England & Wales, Number 06045786

Registered Office: Protran House, Boundary Road, Brighton BN2 5TJ

Telephone: 01273 681681

Fully electric bus network comes a step closer

The Big Lemon’s goal of creating the UK’s first fully electric bus network is a step closer today after we passed the halfway point in our campaign to raise £405,000 to bring our electric fleet up to six – the total required to run all our Brighton & Hove routes with zero-emissions electric buses.

The Big Lemon already operates two electric buses on its routes in Brighton & Hove, powered by solar energy generated on the roof of the bus depot. These buses were once diesel buses and have been converted into electric buses by Magtec in Sheffield.

If successful, we will be converting one more diesel bus, and adding three brand new electric buses to the fleet. As of today we have raised £215,800, leaving £189,200 to go to complete the task.

The investment is being offered in the form of bonds, with both three and five year options and a minimum investment of £100. The three year option yields 4% per annum and the five year option yields 5% pa.

The project is part of The Big Lemon’s vision 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. It is supported by the Department for Transport and Brighton & Hove City Council.

So why have people been so keen to invest?

It is an ethical business which I would like to see succeed, and it pays a decent interest rate.

I believe it is the future.

Our daughter lives in Brighton and thinks we should

Would you like to invest in our Solar Bus Bonds and help bring more zero-emissions electric buses to Brighton & Hove?

For a Solar Bus Bond Prospectus please click on the image below:

All investments are covered by our Solar Bus Bond Agreements:

If you’d like to invest in our Solar Bus Bonds please complete the fields below:

SaveSave

Electric bus “Om Shanti” drives The Big Lemon’s full route network on one charge

The Big Lemon’s first electric bus “Om Shanti” last weekend drove our entire public bus service route network in service with passengers, running all the routes to the right timetable, on one charge.

The Big Lemon Brighton & Hove Bus Route Map 2018

The challenge was set to mark the launch of our Solar Bus Bonds, our £405,000 investment offer to raise money for four more electric buses so that we can run all our six public routes with electric buses, powered by solar energy produced on the roof of our bus depot.

So how did we get on? Watch the video below to find out!

Would you like to invest in our Solar Bus Bonds and help bring more zero-emissions electric buses to Brighton & Hove?

For a Solar Bus Bond Prospectus please click on the image below:

Prospectus 2018

All investments are covered by our Solar Bus Bond Agreements:

If you’d like to invest in our Solar Bus Bonds please complete the fields below:

 

SaveSave

The Big Lemon launches plans for UK’s first all-electric route network

The Big Lemon is launching the next stage of its transition to an all electric future today (Saturday) with plans for the UK’s first all-electric route network.
Only Zero Emission buses powered by renewables UK

Last year we launched the UK’s first solar-powered bus last year, and currently has three electric vehicles powered by solar panels on the roof of the bus depot at Black Rock.

The electric buses are powered by a 138kW battery system and electric motors built by Magtec in Sheffield. They’re charged by a 21 kWh solar array on the roof of the depot, and can do approximately 100 miles on one charge, saving 140kg of CO2 emissions every day.

The Big Lemon won contracts last year to operate six routes in the city (the 16, 47, 52, 56, 57 and 66) and aims to be the first bus company in the UK to run its whole public bus network with electric vehicles.

Last year we won £0.5m funding from the Department for Transport as part of the government’s Low Emission Bus Scheme to part-fund three brand new electric buses, and today we are launching our Solar Bus Bond to raise £405,000 to fund the rest of the cost. The three buses will be built by Optare and enter into service in the autumn.

We are issuing Solar Bus Bonds to members of the public to fund the purchases, offering a 5% return on a 5 year investment. Launching the plans today, we’re embarking on a Solar Bus Challenge to see if Om Shanti, our first solar-powered bus, can complete the full length of each route on our network, in service, with passengers, on the official timetable, in one day, without running out of charge.

“The electric buses are really very good; quiet, comfortable and powerful on the hills, they have proved popular with drivers and passengers alike. We are out today to demonstrate the electric bus technology and learn how far we can push them. We are committed to running all our Brighton & Hove bus services with electric buses by the end of the year to tackle the terrible air quality issues in the city, and are calling on members of the public to get involved”
Tom Druitt, Founder

The Big Lemon Community Interest Company was founded in 2007 following a conversation between childhood friends Tom Druitt and Graeme Simpson about how the corporate bus operators were failing communities.

Tom and Graeme thought there must be a better way, and Tom organised a public meeting in Brighton to explore alternatives which would be more community focussed and offer more affordable, more sustainable travel choices.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our mission is to enable everyone to get around their community in an affordable, enjoyable and environmentally-sustainable way.

As a Community Interest Company, we are owned by members of the local community and our assets belong to the community in the same way as those of a charity.

Our first service was the 42X between Falmer and Brighton Station, using three buses running on recycled waste cooking oil from local restaurants.  Our depot was the corner of a lorry park in Southwick and our office was Tom’s kitchen table.

img_4740
The Big Lemon bus depot in 2007. The buses were fuelled by waste cooking oil processed in our friend Peter Paul’s garden shed, and pumped out of the back of an old van

Our service quickly became popular with passengers, and our drivers soon gained a reputation for giving a friendly, personal service.  Over the next few years we increased our services, moved to a proper depot near Brighton Marina and started offering coach hire, music festival transport, waste cooking oil collection and a programme of Sunday Walks.

Since our launch in 2007 over four million passenger journeys have been made on The Big Lemon.  We have driven over 2 million miles, putting over a thousand tonnes of waste cooking oil to good use, and saving over 1800 tonnes of CO2 emissions in the process.

Over the last two years we have been working on a project to turn our buses electric.  The environmental benefits of using biodiesel from waste cooking oil are huge, with an average 86% reduction in CO2 emissions.  However there are still tailpipe emissions, and these do of course contribute to poor air quality in urban areas.

North Street
The Argus reporting on air pollution in Brighton last year.  North Street is one of the most congested streets in the city;  and with most bus routes passing through it is essential that we make the transition to zero-emission buses.

The quality of the air we breathe  in Britain’s towns and cities is a national scandal.  A report by the Royal College of Physicians in 2017 assessed particulate levels in 51 UK towns and cities and found 44 of them, including Brighton & Hove, had air which the World Health Organisation considers “too dangerous to breathe”.

According to Brighton & Hove City Council’s Air Quality Action Plan (October 2015) air pollution is linked to 175 premature deaths in the city every year.

Tailpipe emissions by route

(Euro 5 diesel)

Carbon dioxide

(CO2 kg/yr)

Carbon monoxide (CO  kg/yr) Hydro-carbons

(HC  kg/yr)

Nitrogen Oxides

(NOx  kg/yr)

Particulates (PM kg/yr)
16 43,292 22.43 10.32 8.08 0.22
47 126,582 65.59 30.17 23.61 0.66
52 81,878 42.42 19.52 15.27 0.42
56 106,347 55.10 25.35 19.84 0.55
57 26,463 13.71 6.31 4.94 0.14
66 24,469 12.68 5.83 4.56 0.13
All routes 409,032 212 97.5 76.3 2.12
Electric 0 0 0 0 0
Saving per year 409,032 212 97.5 76.3 2.12

The Big Lemon believes buses have a big role to play in solving the UK’s air quality crisis and in 2016 we launched a campaign to go electric.  We raised £250,000 through a community bond issue, bought two mid-life diesel buses and converted them to electric.

With the help of the M&S Community Energy Fund, 172 crowdfunding supporters and over 1500 voters, we also raised enough money for a 21kW solar array on our depot roof, enough to power our offices and workshops and the two electric buses.

The first one launched last April, with the second one joined it in July.  Both buses have proved a hit with passengers and drivers alike, offering a much quieter, smoother, more comfortable ride.

Waving Sponsors - Electric Bus Launch

Last autumn The Big Lemon won contracts for additional local bus services, so we now operate routes 16, 47, 52, 56, 57 and 66, serving the communities of Portslade, Hangleton, Patcham, Hollingbury, Woodingdean, Ovingdean, Rottingdean and Saltdean.

These services provide connections to Seven Dials, Brighton Station and the city centre, London Road, Fiveways, Kemptown, the Hospital and Brighton Marina.

The Big Lemon Brighton & Hove Bus Route Map 2018
The Big Lemon’s Brighton & Hove Route Map. Services are operated on behalf of Brighton & Hove City Council and are part of the Brighton & Hove Quality Bus Partnership. All tickets are interchangeable between Brighton & Hove Buses, Compass Bus and The Big Lemon

Our goal is to run all of these services with electric buses, which means we need at least four more.  Now we have tried the technology and know it works, the next challenge is to raise the money required for the vehicles.

In total, the funding required for four electric buses is just over a million pounds.  However we have been very lucky with our efforts to raise funding for the vehicles, with Brighton & Hove City Council committing £114,000 from their Clean Bus Fund for another electric bus conversion, and the Department for Transport committing £513,000 towards the purchase of three brand new electric buses.

To take advantage of these funds we have to raise the remaining £405,000.

What do we need to get four more electric buses?

One 218 kWh Magtec retrofit @£114,000 £114,000
Three Optare Solo 138 kWh electric buses @£289,000 £867,000
Charging infrastructure £51,000
Total £1,032,000

Where is the money coming from?

Clean Bus Fund £114,000
DfT Low Emission Bus Scheme £513,000
Bond issue £405,000
Total £1,032,000

In order to do this we have launched a three year bond at 4%, and a five year bond at 5%. The minimum investment is £100, and interest will be paid annually.  The buses will be offered as security on all investments.

Big Lemon Solar Bus
Lovely message from a happy tweeter!
Investment per bond £100 £100
Period 3 Years 5 Years
Return on investment 4% pa 5% pa
Interest per bond over the period £12 £25
Closing date for applications 30-Apr-18 30-Apr-18

We have a strong team of committed people led by Founder and Chief Executive Tom Druitt and supported by an active Board of Directors with over 70 years of business experience between them.  Our day-to-day operations are led by our Management Team, committed to The Big Lemon’s values of community, sustainability, and empowerment, and many of whom have been with the Company since the very early days.  And our services are provided by an engaged and committed team of the best of Brighton & Hove’s bus and coach drivers.

Team Lemon Brighton 2018
Team Lemon in Brighton with our first solar bus, January 2018

The Big Lemon is accredited with international quality standard ISO9001, and sustainability standard ISO14001. We are a Living Wage employer, and have won a number of accolades in recent years including the Green Business Award and Award for Innovation at the 2016 Brighton & Hove Independent Business Awards, the Best Place to Work, Best Green Business and Business of the Year at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards 2016, Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year at the UK Social Enterprise Awards 2016 and Most Sustainable Business at the Sussex Business Awards 2017.

Copy of IMAG7246_1
Last year we celebrated our 10th Birthday and won the “Most Sustainable Business” Award at the Sussex Business Awards

Will you help us make Brighton & Hove a healthier place to live?

Across the UK, air pollution and congestion blights our cities, communities are losing their bus services, and climate change is beginning to be felt all around us.  Big business has failed to address the challenges we face, and it is up to us to make a difference through the work we do in our communities.

We have a huge opportunity. With the Clean Bus Fund and the Low Emission Bus Scheme we have more than half the funds we need to bring four more zero-emissions electric buses to the streets of Brighton & Hove. With lower running costs than diesel buses, these buses will help us make those services that people rely on in our outlying communities more viable, so they can be maintained long into the future.  With the experience we gain, we can help other communities safeguard and develop their own sustainable transport.  But we can only take advantage of this funding and make these things happen with your help!

Many thanks for your support

Tom Druitt FRSA

Founder and Chief Executive

Tom driving small

For a Solar Bus Bond Prospectus please click on the image below:

Prospectus 2018

All investments are covered by our Solar Bus Bond Agreements:

If you’d like to invest in our Solar Bus Bonds please complete the fields below:

 

 

Brighton's solar electric bus preparing for the next trip to Woodingdean
Brighton’s solar electric bus preparing for the next trip to Woodingdean

Upon receipt of your application we will send you an invoice for the funds with details of how to transfer the funds.

Upon receipt of your funds we will issue a bond certificate within 14 days. Your bond certificate will be dated the date of receipt of your funds and your investment will be returned to you with interest at the end of the term.

We reserve the right to refuse investments and we do not need to give a reason. The Big Lemon does not give financial advice and you are advised to seek independent financial advice on your investments.

This Solar Bus Bond issue falls outside the scope of regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

The Big Lemon CIC is Registered in England & Wales, Number 06045786
Registered Office: Protran House, Boundary Road, Brighton BN2 5TJ
Telephone: 01273 681681

 

Happy New Year from The Big Lemon! Here’s 2017 in pictures…

We’d like to wish all our passengers, customers and friends a very happy New Year!  Thank you for being part of our story in 2017 – what a year it’s been!

Let’s have a look at some of the highlights…

January: We launched our 2030 Vision for sustainable transport in the UK: 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
February: We started work on our solar roof, which now provides power for our two solar buses, our electric minibus, the workshop and the offices. Huge thanks to M&S Energy, our partners Viper IT Solutions, Infinity Foods and Buddies Cafe, and our sponsors and crowdfunding supporters for their generous support.
March: We recruited a new Managing Director, Norman Baker. Norman was previously the MP for Lewes and the Buses Minister in the Coalition Government of 2010-15.
April: We launched the UK’s first solar-powered electric bus with a big ceremony at our depot where we were joined by the mayor of Brighton & Hove, Cllr Pete West, Caroline Lucas MP and Cllr Gill Mitchell, Chair of the city’s council’s Environment, Transport & Committee and a number of our supporters and the local and national press. Massive thanks to our shareholders and bondholders whose support made this possible.
May: The Big Lemon became a train – at the weekends! The ‘rail replacement bus’ is every rail passenger’s worst nightmare, but we are going to change all that… Happiness is a commute on The Big Lemon 🙂
The Big Lemon's electric bus batteries and drive system
June: Batteries and drive pack being prepared for installation into our second Solar Bus by Magtec in their Sheffield factory. The bus, named “Lyndsay Morris” by our Solar Roof partners Infinity Foods, entered service a month later.
The BIg Lemon Brighton Bus Route Map 2017
July: We were informed that we were to be awarded contracts for five new bus services in Brighton & Hove, giving us a for the first time a network covering the whole of Brighton & Hove. After various delays due to a legal challenge by the outgoing operator the contracts were confirmed on 7 September and services launched 10 days later.
August: In preparation for the launch of our new bus services we welcomed 14 new members of staff – doubling the size of our team! And as always, we recruited the nicest people we could find to give our passengers the best possible experience on the buses.
September: As well as launching five new bus services and doubling the size of our team, we celebrated our tenth birthday! Brewed specially for the occasion by our friends at the Zero Impact Brewing Project was The Big Lemon’s 10th Anniversary Pale Ale.
October: We took delivery of the first of six Enviro 200 buses we bought for the new services (in the first few weeks we used loaned vehicles while we trialled a permanent solution). Currently powered by dirty diesel, our goal is to convert all of these buses to electric in 2018. Can you help? Email anna@thebiglemon.com for an investment brochure.

 

November: We won our second Sussex Business Award – this time for the ‘Most Sustainable Business’. The judges mentioned in particular our relationship with the community. Our first Sussex Business Award was in 2013 when we won the award for Social Enterprise.
December: We look back on another momentous year for The Big Lemon and say a massive thanks to those who have made it possible – our staff team who work their socks off every day to provide the best possible experience on our buses and coaches, the customers and passengers who support our services, and our shareholders, bondholders and supporters who make it all possible. Thank you all – here’s to 2018!

Merry Christmas from The Big Lemon!

We’d like to wish all our passengers, customers, suppliers and supporters a wonderful Christmas!

Bus services over the Christmas period are below, with everything back to normal on the 2 January.

Merry Christmas 2017

On 14 January 2018 there will be some changes to our bus services, these are listed here.

Thank you for your support this year, and we hope you have a lovely break!

The Big Lemon wins the Award for the Most Sustainable Business at the Sussex Business Awards 2017

At a magnificent ceremony held last night at Brighton’s Grand Hotel to celebrate the 29th annual Sussex Business Awards, The Big Lemon won the award for the Most Sustainable Business.

The Big Lemon was shortlisted in both the Innovation and the Sustainable Business categories, in recognition of our work over the last ten years reducing waste and CO2 emissions by running bus services on recycled cooking oil from local restaurants, and electricity generated by solar panels on the roof of our bus depot.

The Award for the Most Sustainable Business is described by the Sussex Business Awards as “for outstanding achievement by those businesses for whom the protection or enhancement of the environment is placed at the core of their activities, or whose products or practices have resulted in significant beneficial environmental impact”.

Collecting the award, founder Tom Druitt said “A massive thank you to the most amazing team in the world who have made this possible, and to all our friends in the community who have supported us on our journey.”

The winners were drawn from 40 finalists representing 17 Sussex towns . There were 17 different categories, with Bluebird Tea Co named as the big winners of the night, taking home awards for Best Employer and Best Customer Service, and whose founders Mike Turner & Krisi Smith, won Sussex Businessperson of the Year.

 

 

The Value of Bus Travel

New Benefit-Cost Ratio analysis reveals enormous value of bus travel

Greener Journeys worked with KPMG LLP to update the Benefit-Cost Ratios (BCRs) of bus travel, illustrating how investment in buses delivers value for money.

Greener Journeys

​The new research looked at the economic, social and environmental benefits of the bus, examining the value of concessionary bus travel, the Bus Service Operators Grant and investment in bus infrastructure.

This new analysis reveals that every pound spent on local bus infrastructure can generate more than £8 of benefits for local businesses, communities and the environment. The study, which explores the ‘true value’ of local bus services, also found that each £1 spent on concessionary bus travel for older and disabled people generates £3.80 in wider benefits to society.

Big Lemon_Skye
The Big Lemon accepts both concessionary bus passes and Carer’s Cards

Buses are Britain’s most widely used mode of public transport and carry more commuters than all other forms of public transport combined, helping to generate £64bn per year for local economies. This vital research demonstrates the significant contribution that our buses make in keeping the UK moving and growing.

Lewes Bonfire 2017

Once again The Big Lemon will be running coaches to the Lewes Bonfire from Brighton. The bonfire is one of the biggest in the country, there are six societies putting on five separate parades and firework displays on the 5th, and this can mean 3,000 people taking part in the celebrations, and up to 80,000 spectators attending in the small market town with a permanent population of just 16,000.

Careful travel planning is essential for Lewes Bonfire because on bonfire night a lot of the roads are closed and you can’t park anywhere. Buses and trains are difficult too, because on bonfire night everyone and their dog wants to go to Lewes.

With The Big Lemon you can reserve a seat on a dedicated coach that will take you direct to the heart of the action and give you a guaranteed seat on the way home too 🙂

Coaches leave from Old Steine, Lewes Road (by Elm Grove), Lewes Road Bus Garage and Falmer (adj Sussex University on the A27).

To book your seat please follow the link https://thebiglemon.myshopify.com/products/lewes-bonfire-bus

A trip down memory lane – ten key milestones in our first ten years

On this day, ten years ago, we launched our first bus service! To celebrate, we’ve put together ten highlights of the last ten years…


2007: We launched the UK’s first bus service powered solely by recycled cooking oil from local restaurants.

2008: A thirteen year old boy came to the depot with his dad, and said he’d seen the buses and read about us in the paper. He said he would like to buy a share in the business with pocket money he’d saved, and also help out in the depot. He helped Tom wash the buses at the weekends, and also helped out in the office after school. Fast forward to 2017 and he’s our Coach Hire Manager, and, having recently passed his Certificate of Professional Competence in International Passenger Transport, the most highly qualified transport professional in the organisation.

2009: We bought our first coach, a Volvo B10m Plaxton Paramount, and launched the UK’s first waste oil-powered coach hire service. We also won our first award, the Dandelion Award for sustainable business, at a ceremony in London.

2010: We doubled the size of our bus service operation almost overnight, launched a waste cooking oil collection service and elected one of our driving team to the Board of Directors to ensure that our drivers are represented at all levels of decision-making.

2011: We launched our Sunday Walks, and won the EU’s Ethiconomy Award at a ceremony in Italy.

2012: We won our first local authority contract, to run the 52 bus. In the five years since we have built strong relationships with the communities along the route, held 11 public meetings, extended the route into the city centre, introduced multi-operator smart-ticketing (in association with the other local operators, the Department for Transport and the City Council) and increased ridership by 59%.

2013: We launched The Big Orange (a coach that was already orange so we saved the money on yellow paint and branded it The Big Orange!) and the Little Lemon wedding car service, using an ex-London taxi. The Big Orange was ultimately painted yellow as we professionalised and improved our cash-flow, and The Little Lemon is now selling beer in Belgium.

2014: We opened our own on-site maintenance facility for the first time, improving our operational capability and also offering vehicle maintenance as a service to other businesses.

2015: The turning point for our finances as we finally paid off the last of our historical debt, greatly improved our cash position, and ended the year with a healthy surplus that enabled us to pay a dividend for the first time and launch our Staff Fund. This fund is 10% of our annual profit which is managed by a staff committee elected by our drivers and is available for staff welfare, team social activities and personal development.

2016: We set our sights on electric bus technology and raised £250,000 to fund the conversion of two buses from diesel to electric. We also raised £25,000 through a crowdfunding campaign and funding from the M&S Energy Awards for solar panels on the roof of our bus depot. We won nine local and national awards including awards for recycling, innovation, and Best Workplace, Brighton & Hove Business of the Year and UK Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year.

2017: This year we published our national strategy going forward to 2030, recruited Norman Baker as Managing Director in Brighton & Hove, and made history again by launching the UK’s first solar-powered bus, powered from electricity generated on the roof of our depot. We have also been shortlisted for three more awards including the National Transport Awards’ Contribution to Sustainable Transport Award and just a week ago heard that we have been successful in our bid to the Department for Transport for £500,000 towards three brand new zero-emissions electric buses to make Brighton & Hove an even cleaner, greener city and build a working model for community sustainable transport across the country.


It’s been a blast, thank you for being part of our story! Here’s to the next ten years…

Tom, Norman and the team

How are we doing? Passenger survey results show 100% satisfaction with The Big Lemon’s drivers

Our main aim at The Big Lemon is to make sure everyone who has a ‘Big Lemon experience’ has a good one. We endeavour to make a positive impact on our community, to give our team a fulfilling and enjoyable job, and of course to give our passengers the best possible experience on the bus.

Every year we do a straw poll of our 52 passengers to see how we’re doing, and here are the results for 2017:

Our 2016 results:
Big Lemon bus 52 survey results 2016

We’d like to thank our passengers for their very positive feedback and we have taken on board the feedback to improve the experience, especially with regard to the vehicles. We have invested a huge amount this year in the quality of our vehicles and are pleased to say that the new electric bus is very quiet, very smooth and has a fully re-fitted interior with very comfortable seating.

We’d also like to acknowledge the commitment and dedication of our team to provide a friendly personal service to our passengers – incredible result to get 100% top marks for our drivers!

Stop Press!

Come and see us in Brighton’s Churchill Square today where our MD Norman Baker will be showcasing our electric bus and chatting to members of the public about bus services as part of Catch the Bus Week

The future is bright, the future is lemon – Norman Baker writes

I wouldn’t call it gamekeeper turned poacher, but it is certainly a journey from being Buses Minister – setting the rules and determining national budgets – through to Chair of Bus Users UK – representing passenger interests – to my new role as operator, Managing Director of The Big Lemon in Brighton and Hove.

Norman Baker joins The Big Lemon bus company as Managing Director
Norman Baker and Tom Druitt

And yet for me, the philosophy that underpins each role is the same: to deliver a good service for the passenger, and in that way to push up the number of journeys made by bus. That in turn helps reduce carbon emissions and boost local economies, precisely the two key objectives I set for the successful Local Sustainable Transport Fund established back in 2010.

I like the bus industry. It is by and large a happy family, and one which delivers a good product, despite the hurdles that can exist. It is customer focussed in a way many industries aren’t, perhaps because it relies on a huge number of people regularly paying small amounts.

The Big Lemon has these plus points and more besides. It is a great little organisation where everyone feels part of the team and believes in the product. It is therefore no surprise that this enthusiasm is infectious, extending out to the public at large, who like the friendly drivers and the freshness of the brand. We have made travelling by The Big Lemon a fun thing to do. Fun rather than functional.

What is also valued, not least by me, is the ethical and environmental approach that is in the DNA of The Big Lemon. Over a decade now, it has shown how doing the right thing can not only be successful in economic terms, but also generate brand loyalty as well.

All the company’s vehicles run on used cooking oil, collected from local restaurants. This not only reduces carbon emissions but doubtless reduces problems for Southern Water – used cooking oil and waste water pipes are not great companions.

Next month, we take delivery of two electric buses. These will be the first such buses to operate in the city, and perhaps, though I stand to be corrected, anywhere in Sussex. At the same time, solar panels are being installed on the roof of our depot, meaning the recharging of the vehicles should be fully from renewable sources. These buses are truly green.

It has become somewhat unfashionable to put the environment centre stage. The dismissal of measures to tackle environmental challenges by the former chancellor George Osborne as “green crap”, and the arrival of climate change deniers in the White House, has weakened the political imperative for action.

Yet all the scientific analysis shows climate change is only too real and getting more marked by the year. With the transport sector accounting for around a quarter of Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions, it would be irresponsible for the bus industry not to play its part.

Here in Brighton and Hove, the biggest player is of course the Go-Ahead subsidiary Brighton and Hove Buses. We also have services provided by a local independent, Compass.

Both these companies are good operators, and I welcome that. The result of their actions, and ours, has been to buck the national trend, and see passenger numbers rising across the city. We may be in competition at one level but is in our shared interest to provide a reliable product for the bus user. The companies have done that, helped by a consistently supportive approach over the years from the city council, irrespective of political control.

So we now have an effective multi-operator ticketing system, and other shared platforms too. For instance Bus Times, the free timetable guide produced by Brighton and Hove Buses, also includes full information relating to all Big Lemon and Compass registered routes.

And we have a common agenda in tackling the barriers to bus travel, for example the congestion on our roads, or the need for particular bus priority measures.

But in this mix, The Big Lemon has a unique approach, being a social enterprise, suffused with fun, and underpinned by ethical and environmental policies others may find too challenging, but which help rather than hinder our success. It is a model we now want to export to other parts of the country.

I am immensely pleased to be joining an organisation that I believe in and that is going places. The future is bright, the future is lemon.

Norman Baker

Managing Director

 

Passenger Transport article Norman Baker Big Lemon
This article originally appeared in Passenger Transport magazine on 24 March 2017

Norman Baker joins The Big Lemon as Managing Director for Brighton and Hove

Norman Baker, who was the MP for Lewes from 1997 to 2015 and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport from 2010 to 2013, is joining The Big Lemon as Managing Director for the Brighton & Hove area.

Norman Baker joins The Big Lemon bus company as Managing Director
Norman Baker and Tom Druitt

The Big Lemon runs bus routes and coach hire services in and around Brighton & Hove using waste cooking oil from local restaurants, and is launching two electric buses in April which will be powered by solar energy generated on the roof of the bus depot. The social enterprise won ‘Business or the Year 2016‘ at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards.

The appointment is part of The Big Lemon’s ambition to develop a national network of locally-owned social enterprises providing affordable public transport, with zero-emissions vehicles powered by renewable energy.

Since leaving politics in 2015 Norman served as Chair of Bus Users UK, working closely with Chief Executive Claire Walters in raising the profile of Bus Users and helping to steer the organisation towards becoming a more diverse and representative body.

Speaking of his appointment, Norman said

I am delighted to be joining The Big Lemon, which has gone from strength to strength in recent times. I feel particularly at home with its strong environmental approach, showing you can run a successful business in an ethical manner

Norman Baker

Tom Druitt, founder and chief executive of The Big Lemon, welcomed Norman’s appointment:

Norman has dedicated his life to his community, serving the people of the Lewes area for many years as their MP, and more recently bus users across the country as Transport Minister and latterly as Chair of Bus Users UK. We’d be hard-pressed to find a stronger champion for better and more sustainable bus services to lead our organisation in Brighton & Hove, and we’re very much looking forward to working together

Tom Druitt

What does community-based public transport look like in the UK in 2030?

The Big Lemon has put in a bid for funding to Innovate UK to explore the question of what community-based public transport looks like in the UK in 2030.

The aim of the funding is to “stimulate high-quality, human-centred design activities at the earliest stages of the innovation journey. These should identify opportunities and generate ideas for new products, services or business models that align with customer demand”.

Sustainable community public transport in 2030
Is this the future for sustainable community public transport in 2030?

We have a strong vision at The Big Lemon, 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

We know that this has to become a reality, given the irrepressible desire of people to move around and the imperatives of climate science.  To date we’ve met this challenge by developing a network of innovative bus services, owned by the community and powered by renewable energy.

But, given the rapid development of autonomous, low-carbon vehicles, new, digitally-driven on-demand transport options, not to mention a challenging outlook for publicly-funded services, we don’t believe that the traditional scheduled bus service can realise our vision any more than the inefficient, congestion-causing, financially-draining model of private car ownership can.

Through user-centred design, we want to explore, co-create and test new service models with the travelling public, that we can roll-out nationwide to meet our vision – and the needs of the communities we serve. Working with User Experience experts We Are AFK, we are excited about moving beyond a bus company to an innovation leader in sustainable transport.

What do you think is the future?  Share your comments below