From Solar PV, low energy lighting to rainwater harvesting, the steps to environmentally sustainability and promoting a 'green' agenda has become a way of life for one of the UK's biggest coach tour operators

Over the past decade, the coach travel business has pioneered, a shift towards ‘green energy'. Technology has led to the new generation of coaches to be powered by leaner, fuel efficient engine management systems, produced by manufacturers who invest heavily in research and development.

There has been a dramatic cut in CO2 emissions and the carbon footprint reduction of this new generation of coach is unquestionably a far cry from some of the fume-filled coach travel of yesteryear where diesel particulates filled the air and was all part of the travel ‘experience'.

One coach tour business, operating across Scotland and the North of England , has gone even further. It has extended its environmental credentials by investing in solar power, rainwater harvesting and other energy efficient innovations which makes it one of the most progressively sustainable coach tour operators in the United Kingdom.

Timberbush Tours already has a Green Tourism ‘Gold' Award to its name, It sits alongside an Eco-Stars Fleet Recognition Scheme Award that recognises a commitment that every vehicle within its coach fleet adheres to one of the very best-in-class ‘greener' fleets operating in the UK.

It places strong emphasis to ensure every part of the business is underpinned with careful consideration for the environment and sustainability as it ferries holiday makers and day trippers to destinations across the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and the North of England from Edinburgh, Glasgow and more recently, from its new Inverness hub.

Earlier this year, the company spent GBP2 million on 16 new coaches ranging from 10-seater to 53-seater capacity, bringing its fleet size to 34 coaches which are some of the most environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient vehicles available, but it is the overall management of the fleet which shines a light on Timberbush's pursuit of being the ‘greenest' of green coach travel companies, as Steve Spalding, CEO, explains;

"Recognition of our environmental credentials extends beyond fitting coaches out with the latest fuel-efficient engines and GPS systems. For example, The Eco-Stars award leans heavily on us meeting specific criteria on how every coach is managed and operated. It takes into account factors such as the different environmentally friendly trims and materials specified for each coach, assesses us on GPS tracking so our fuel management is continuously optimised, how our vehicle idling times are monitored and how much ‘downtime' each coach may have which obviously needs kept to a minimum.

"How we ‘flex' our fleet to ensure we optimise coach capacity rather than have empty seats is a very important environmental consideration too. With the fleet ranging in size from 10 -seater to 53- seaters, we want to fill every coach as best we can for each trip and that means ensuring that we minimise seat vacancies and strongly focus on utilisation.

"For example, we don't want to be using a 47-seater coach if we only have 30 seats sold for that trip and be left with 17 empty seats, forcing the use of an oversize vehicle. In that case, we'd ensure a 32-seater was used. This is purely down to streamlining efficiencies and making us smarter and leaner when utilising our coach fleet to best effect.

Our 'green' agenda doesn't end there. There has been a serious effort from the business to create an environmental ‘well-being' across the entire operation supported by a commitment to conscious investment and procurement in all areas."

At its Edinburgh-based headquarters it has become second nature for the staff to recycle materials such as printer cartridges, paper, plastic, cans, etc. Even technology devices such as mobile phones and computers are regularly recycled, and staff encouraged to leave the car and commute to work via public transport or cycle.

In the staff kitchen, expect to find ‘Fairtrade or Ecover' products that have replaced many recognised household ‘brands'. Staff are all issued with their very own branded thermal water flasks to remove the need for single use plastic water bottles and cups from the business. Even the tour brochures are printed on FSF (Forest Stewardship Council) paper which means that the paper used for printing is from responsible sources.

Timberbush staff take part in a local ‘beach cleaning' operation twice a year, which helps reinforce that the scope for corporate social responsibility is always there to be expanded…and then there's Trees for Life - a charitable foundation working to restore the Caledonian Forest and its unique wildlife to the Scottish Highlands.

Customers booking a 1, 2, 3- or 5-day tour through the Timberbush website can donate £1 to contribute to the Timberbush ‘Trees for Life' Grove. To date, over 2000 trees reside in the dedicated Timberbush grove which will go some way to help replenish the Caledonian Forest.

More recently, Timberbush upgraded its Edinburgh base, in the offices and warehouse areas you will find low energy lighting, light sensors and thermostatic controls, whilst in the toilets there was a switch from paper towels to ultra-efficient hand dryers.

A much larger investment saw the installation of a 14m vehicle inspection pit and the fitting out of a workshop, enabling scheduled inspections and maintenance across the fleet. Again, offering a significant vehicle downtime and fuel cost saving for the company.

Steve Spalding again;

"Given the thousands of miles the fleet undertakes every day to various destinations across Scotland and the north of England, scheduling regular inspection, maintenance and performance checks for each coach is a considerable task. Until we installed our own workshop facility, we used an off-site facility, which meant a coach would be spending longer out of commission.

"Equally, when you add in factors such as the additional mileage and staff time taken to drop off and return each coach from the off-site facility, the investment we have made will pay dividends in the longer term. This naturally leads to a considerable saving in ‘downtime‘ whilst also sustain good environmental practice.

Very much an exercise of continuous improvement, we are currently installing a rainwater harvesting system for the daily washing of our coaches as well as scoping installation of Solar PV, striving to be a sustainable coach company in every sense of the word."

Timberbush will continue to promote environmental awareness within the business and to all its customers. From fuel efficient coaches kitted out with the latest engines and every single one upgraded on a three-year purchasing cycle to ensure maximum efficiency, this coach tour company really does fly the flag for sustainability and environmental best practice.


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