BRIGHT sunshine and blue skies were beaming over the borough, but green was the colour last Monday when Reading Buses unveiled a new chapter in the town's transport history.

Councillors, travel experts and charity representatives waited eagerly at Reading's Green Park for a first look at the Greenwave fleet, which runs on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

The buses will replace the Fast Track service, which serves Green Park, Reading International Business Park, Kennet Island and the Madejski Stadium park and ride.

Reading Buses chief executive officer, James Freeman, said: "We are changing the face of riding buses in Reading and this new fleet takes us to the next level, which we are very proud of."

A total of 11 new single-decker buses will be rolled out on Tuesday [7], but a total of 20 will eventually run when the fleet is expanded to the red 9 and bronze 11 routes - making it the largest fleet of gas buses in Britain.

The gas is made up of methane and compressed to around 1% of its volume, reducing the amount of nitrogen oxide released into the air by 55%.

It is stored in eight gas tanks on the roof of the bus, which can hold a total of 1,200 litres.

Reading's transport leader, Cllr Tony Page, said: "The A33 corridor links the business, retail and residential sectors of Reading and we have a marvellous facility at Green Park and the Madejski Stadium.

"It is frequency and reliability that bus passengers want and Reading borough is well at the forefront with these latest buses, which represent a real step forward. I eagerly await seeing the full fleet in action."

The buses have been built by manufacturers Scania and are fitted with wheelchair accessible ramps and audio announcements, which tell visually-impaired customers where the next stop will be.

An announcer also sounds when the doors open at each bus stop to let people know the destination, and Mr Freeman said: "Guide Dogs for the Blind have been very effective in bringing forward and identifying the merits of talking buses, which is a huge step forward for Reading."

Mr Freeman confirmed a gas delivery system is being installed at the Reading Buses depot in Great Knollys Street, but a tank and compressor will be built on site in the meantime.

The buses are under contract to Reading Borough Council, and Cllr Page said: "We have long championed environmental improvements, especially reductions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. These services will soon be able to claim to be one of the first genuinely carbon neutral bus services in Britain."