BUSES on the St Ives-Cambridge guided busway, which is due to open in late summer, could be filling up at the country s first 100 per cent waste-product bio-diesel depot, operator Stagecoach has revealed. The Perth-based company s chairman, Brian Souter,

BUSES on the St Ives-Cambridge guided busway, which is due to open in late summer, could be filling up at the country's first 100 per cent waste-product bio-diesel depot, operator Stagecoach has revealed.

The Perth-based company's chairman, Brian Souter, has an aspiration to put one depot solely on green bio-fuel "and he has a habit of choosing Cambridge," managing director Andy Campbell said at the launch of The Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Business Awards 2009.

Mr Campbell was describing his company's progress to becoming the main operator on the busway and his frustration that it had failed to open on schedule last month - when Stagecoach's dedicated £3million fleet of 20 leather-seated air-conditioned guided buses with free Wi-fi had already been delivered.

They could either have been mothballed until the guideway eventually opened or, as has happened, go into service on the existing Huntingdon-Cambridge services so that passengers could judge the quality of 21st century luxury bus travel.

Mr Campbell, who has been in charge of the Cambridge operation for five years, said the company's business case for the guided bus investment followed its doubling of ridership on the city network, a rapid increase in the number of passengers using park-and-ride services, a 40 per cent reduction in complaints and heavy investment in driver training and customer care.

On the back of that - and against the expectation of a start to nearly 10,000 new homes at the new town of Northstowe (which has not yet happened) - Stagecoach committed to a minimum level of service on the guideway for five years.

"With Northstowe on hold, my business case does not look quite so rosy. And, when the guideway was delayed, I wondered whether to resign," he candidly told guests at the launch event at the Cambridge Golf and Conference Centre in Hemingford Abbotts, which is owned by former Business Award winner Peter Durham.

The choice of bio-fuel for the low-emission buses posed a bit of a problem for Mr Souter, his managing director said.

Stagecoach was committed to going green, "but some sources of bio-diesel affect the food chain. We wanted no dead gorillas and no one starving, so we decided we had to stay with 100 per cent bio-diesel from recycled food products."

A trial with older buses in Kilmarnock, Strathclyde, proved that fuel derived from recycled chip fat worked fine, Mr Souter found a supplier and the company decided to promote the vehicles as bio-buses and operate them in public service even before the guideway opened, Mr Campbell said.

"If you haven't been on one yet, you are in for a treat. You can work on your way to the office. It's stress-free and you're chauffeur-driven. For anyone who travels down the A14 and suffers from an unpredictable journey time, I have no doubt that this will be a raging success."

The Huntingdon station-Cambridge service will operate between 6am and midnight, he added, with the last bus returning from Cambridge at about 11.30pm. there will also be an experimental Sunday service - an addition to the current Stagecoach timetable.

And Stagecoach's £5-a-day and £20-a-week tickets that are valid county-wide can be used on guided services, with smart-card technology being introduced soon, if trials are successful.

To enter the 2009 Huntingdonshire Hunts Post Business Awards simply log on to www.huntspost24.co.uk and click on the Business Awards logo at the top of the screen.