Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp has called for the NSW government to incorporate all-electric buses into the Newcastle Transport bus fleet after learning some of the existing diesel vehicles have been on the road for almost a quarter of a century.
The Labor MP wants the government and Keolis Downer, which operates the Newcastle network, to look at "cleaner and greener options" as part of the fleet's ongoing replacement.
He said Transport Minister Andrew Constance had recently revealed in a response to parliamentary questions that some of the buses were 24 years old and the fleet's average age was 10.8 years.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union raised no concerns about the age of the buses when contacted by the Newcastle Herald, but Keolis Downer is required to replace at least eight buses each year over the life of its 10-year operating contract.
Mr Crakanthorp said the replacement program, and a recent government plan to trial electric buses in Sydney, presented an opportunity to transition away from diesel.
"With an ageing bus fleet in Newcastle, some over 24 years old, the government should be looking to replace old diesel buses with cleaner, greener options," he said.
"Transition to electric and hydrogen technologies makes a lot of sense - I can't imagine new buses this year still in use, on diesel, in 2045.
"Either that, or there would have to be some kind of retrofit to make them more environmentally friendly down the track. I wonder what the cost of that would be?"
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The Labor MP pointed to the University of Newcastle's hybrid bus, which transfers students between campuses, as an example of the options.
"Around the city we are already seeing companies shift to more sustainable bus fleets with UON utilising Volvo hybrid technology to reduce carbon and noise emissions," he said.
"Compared to full-diesel generated shuttles, the NUspace shuttle is estimated to reduce Co2e emissions by 50 per cent."
In May, his department called for expressions of interest from the energy, transport and manufacturing sectors to participate in zero-emission bus trials.
The trials are expected to run in Sydney and outer-metro areas, which includes Newcastle.
The Herald understands Keolis Downer will tender interest in the trials. Its parent company, Keolis, runs electric buses in France.
Keolis has also operated autonomous vehicles in multiple countries, including a current trial in Newcastle.
"We work closely with Transport for NSW around the management of Newcastle Transport assets to ensure safe operations for our staff, customers and the community," a Keolis Downer spokesperson said.
"The Newcastle Transport bus fleet has received 17 replacement buses since 2017, plus three growth buses in response to the delivery of more bus services and increased frequency for specified routes.
"We will be adding another eight replacement buses to the fleet by the end of the year."