It has just been announced that the first vehicles in a fleet of 159 new battery electric buses are set to arrive in Oxfordshire in September after an £82.5 million deal was sealed. Last March, Oxfordshire County Council was awarded £32.8 million from the government’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme, along with £6 million from the council and £43.7 million from bus companies.
Along with Coventry, Oxford is set to become one of UK’s first all-electric bus cities. This is great news for the county in terms of pollution and smooth quiet journeys, as well as offering the bus companies cheaper running costs and fewer maintenance needs.
Rachel Geliamassi, Stagecoach West managing director, said: “We’re excited to be announcing this major milestone for Oxfordshire which will be a major step forward in improving air quality across the region. This builds further on the major investment being made by Stagecoach across the country to support the transition to a zero emission bus fleet.
“We look forward to working with our local authority partners on their plans to further decarbonise the city, which will help us to speed up journey times and attract more people out of their cars and on to reliable, sustainable public transport services.”
Following the signing of contracts between the bus companies and the manufacturers, and the council’s approval of trial traffic filters in Oxford to help reduce bus journey times by at least 10 per cent in the city, confirmation of Oxfordshire’s ZEBRA scheme has now been finalised.
Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management, said: “This is a huge boost in the move towards creating a sustainable, decarbonised public transport system and improving air quality.
“We believe that, along with other schemes proposed in the county, this new fleet of electric buses will transform our public transport system and encourage more people to travel by bus.”
Transport is the largest contributor to nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emissions in Oxford. It accounts for two-thirds of the total emissions, with both diesel cars and buses contributing to roughly one-third of the transport emissions each.
Luke Marion, Oxford Bus Company managing director, said: “This ground-breaking plan and significant investment will radically improve air quality in Oxford. We look forward to continuing to work with key partners to deliver this ambitious project, which will make bus travel an even better option for getting around our city.”
The arrival of the 159 electric buses is expected to support a further drop in nitrogen dioxide levels in the country. This will help clean up Oxford and Oxfordshire’s air pollution, reduce noise pollution and help make Oxfordshire a net zero carbon county well before 2050.
MP Richard Holden, Roads Minister, said: “We want to see a better bus network around Britain and that means reliable, affordable, clean buses, and we will do everything possible to decarbonise our transport network and support skilled jobs in next-generation bus manufacturing across the UK.
“We’ve already invested hundreds of millions of pounds to kick-start the rollout of zero emission buses nationwide, and it’s great to see Oxfordshire County Council, Stagecoach and Go-Ahead Group making use of our funding to transform its fleet to electric. This move will boost UK manufacturing, drive down emissions and improve bus services for people across the region.”
Oxfordshire was one of only 12 local authorities to successfully apply for ZEBRA funding and is one of the biggest schemes in the country. All the new buses are being manufactured in the UK and are expected to arrive by March 2024. It will be one of the largest orders outside London and will mean that most services across the Oxford Smartzone will be operated by battery electric buses.
Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for Health and Transport, Oxford City Council, said: “Air pollution is a major cause of poor health in Oxford and cleaning up our bus emissions is an important step towards better air quality for everyone who lives, works, and visits Oxford.
“Buses are a vital part of how many people travel around Oxford, especially the 30 per cent of Oxford residents who do not own a car. Let’s not underestimate the importance of the county’s proposed congestion-busting traffic measures in giving the bus companies the confidence to invest in these electric buses.
“Hopping on a brand new electric bus, with free WiFi and stop announcements for the partially sighted, will make bus travel a much more attractive option for everyone.
“We are looking forward to seeing these new buses on Oxford’s roads as part of a zero emission bus network. It all helps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and fulfil our aim of cutting the city’s carbon footprint.”