john clancyBefore receiving ‘stop press’ news about a grant for hydrogen buses, we recalled the words of Birmingham City’s Council leader, “Transport links and the Buses Bill are key to making local economies across the UK more economically inclusive and prosperous. High quality public transport is fundamental to ensuring more inclusive growth. Poor air quality is responsible for around the same number of deaths across core cities as it is in London and must be tackled if our cities are to thrive.”

This was a paragraph written by Cllr John Clancy to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, urging him to put improved transport links between the UK’s major cities at the top of his ‘to-do’ list.

We then asked, ‘why not consider a gradual transition to cleaner forms of road and waterway passenger transport’?


It is reported that the Icknield Port Loop development will open up a little-used and inaccessible corner of the city’s canal network, creating 1.5km of new towpath, new moorings, waterbus stops and space for historic boats.

Thames river buses are well used and people arriving in Leeds by train can take a water taxi from Granary Wharf every day, travelling along a scenic canal route – free of charge. The service is funded by the docks’ management.


Such services could be introduced on Birmingham canals, which are lined with many handsome, well-designed industrial buildings, some in need of restoration for reuse, and could become a pleasing feature of the city, with commuters and visitors travelling by water.

Diesel emissions would become a distant memory as cleaner vehicles are used on road and waterways.

Microcab, Coventry University’s spin-off company, has for several years operated hydrogen-fuelled minicabs powered by motors so green their only “emission” is water pure enough to drink and the UK’s first hydrogen fuelling station was opened at the University of Birmingham before a fleet of five Microcabs was delivered to the University of Birmingham in 2008.

And as Professor Harris (Metallurgy and Materials, University of Birmingham) pointed out during a recent BMI address, ‘Hydrogen and Rare Earth Magnets: Towards a Pollution Free Environment’ the Ross Barlow canal boat, operating between the University and the City Centre, is powered by hydrogen.

ross barlow city background

Instead of being mired every day in city centre congestion, many travellers could escape to the outskirts by water and – as the use of clean fuel rose – the burden on the NHS would be lessened.

Is this revolution on its way? The Tyburn Mail reports that Birmingham City Council and Transport for London has jointly been given £2.8 million by the Government’s  Department for Transport for 42 state-of-the-art hydrogen fuel cell buses.