Electric shuttle bus mooted as solution to our traffic chaos

GREEN, cute and kind to traders – an electric shuttle bus is the latest idea from environmental group Hampstead 2020.

The Continental-style vehicle – capable of transporting 15 to 20 people standing – would set off from Whitestone Pond and wend its way down East Heath Road to South End Green before looping around back to the pond via Heath Street.

Environmental campaigner and Transition Belsize co-ordinator Alexis Rowell initially put forward the idea of an electric shuttle train for the village.

He said: “This was something that came out of a meeting in Fitzjohn’s Avenue with parents, residents and councillors.

“One suggestion was an electric bus-train – the idea that we could have people on that rather than driving around in 4x4s.

“I think the shuttle bus could be a very useful mix in a climate policy that puts pedestrians and cyclists first rather than motorists.”

Those driving the scheme’s latest twist say it could be a boon for traders currently losing out because of a lack of parking spaces for customers.

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Keith Wynn, owner of Photocraft in Heath Street, said: “I think it’s a great idea. Anything that makes life easier with the awful parking we have here can only help shops.

“We are obviously suffering with the parking problems as is just about everywhere in London at the moment.”

The bus would run for 10 hours a day from 7am. Drivers visiting Hampstead could park their cars in the car park by Jack Straw’s Castle before hopping aboard.

It would start at the car park, go down East Heath Road past the Hampstead Heath Overground station into South End Green and turn right up Pond Street past the Royal Free.

At St Stephen’s Church it would turn right up Rosslyn Hill, go up Hampstead High Street past the tube station and turn right onto Heath Road and back towards the pond.

In theory, the vehicle would generate extra electricity as it travelled down the steep descents of East Heath Road.

Hampstead 2020 spokesman and Fitzjohns Avenue resident Farokh Khorooshi said: “The idea is to have an electric mini-bus like a little shuttle bus. It’s quite common across Europe in Spain, France and Switzerland.

“It will be a social place where people can meet up. There will be zero emissions. It will promote trade and the school-runners can tap into it as well. It will bring life back to Hampstead in a sustainable way.”

He hopes the scheme could be running in time for the Olympics and has designs on introducing similar shuttle runs in Belsize and further south in Primrose Hill.

His working title for the project is London Loops.

The idea is that eventually Transport for London (TfL) would take over the running of the shuttle bus – with customers able to use their Oyster travel cards.

A TfL spokeswoman said that there were no plans to introduce electric buses in the capital because they could not run for 20 hours a day, as does the rest of the fleet.

But she said: “Any privately operated service would have to apply for a London service permit.

“We have not yet received a formal application from Hampstead 2020 but we will be happy to consider any firm proposals in the future.”

Hampstead 2020 now hopes to secure a bus in the coming months to drive along the proposed route on a test run.