First Bus has placed one of the UK’s largest electric vehicle (EV) bus orders with UK manufacturer Wrightbus. This follows successful bids with Local Authorities as part of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) funding scheme.
The £81 million order, totalling 193 buses, is the largest EV bus purchase outside of London. It will see new zero emission buses being rolled out across England from March 2023. First Bus will invest £43 million in the new vehicles and will be supported to complete the electric fleet project with a £38 million grant from the DfT.
First Bus has worked closely with five Local Authority partners to secure the funding. This helps to bridge the gap between the cost of a Euro VI diesel bus and the EV equivalent, as well as the relevant infrastructure costs necessary to charge the vehicles.
The order will be split between the following five areas:
Leicester: 68 buses in partnership with Leicester City Council
York: 44 buses in partnership with City of York Counci
Leeds: 32 buses in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority
Norwich: 15 buses in partnership with Norfolk County Council
Portsmouth: 34 buses in partnership with Portsmouth City Council & Hampshire County Council
Each regional project will be completed over the next two years. It means that First Bus will have over 500 EV buses in operation in what is a huge leap forward towards their pledge of an entirely zero emission fleet by 2035.
The new EV buses will be fully built in Northern Ireland at the Wrightbus facility in Ballymena in a significant boost for the UK economy and the manufacturing sector.
This latest partnership between First Bus and Wrightbus comes following the successful rollout of the world’s first double-decker Hydrogen buses in Aberdeen in 2020.
Janette Bell, First Bus UK, Managing Director, said: “We are absolutely delighted to place our largest ever Zero Emission Vehicle order and to do so with a UK manufacturer. Wrightbus have a really exciting product that we feel will enhance the customer experience at the same time as benefitting the environment.
“As leaders in sustainable mobility, we are fully aligned with the Government’s ambitions for a net-zero carbon transport system, including zero-emission bus fleets. We will continue to work closely with central and Local Government across the UK to support the delivery of our shared decarbonisation ambitions and commitments.”
As one of the UK’s largest bus operators, First Bus will also work with the Ballymena-based bus builder to help upskill current and new engineers alike to help take their people on this decarbonisation journey with them. This will allow First Bus and Wrightbus to create new green jobs, as well as enhancing skillsets for existing staff.
Ben Werth, Wrightbus COO, said: “This is another significant deal for Wrightbus – the largest zero emissions bus order outside of London – and we are delighted to once again be partnering with First Bus in the drive to zero-emission public transport. First Bus, like us, is consistently on the forefront of new and exciting technology and at the forefront of zero- and low-emission travel.
“All of the buses – the GB Kite Electroliner BEV and the StreetDeck Electroliner BEV, which is the world’s most efficient double decker battery-electric bus – will be manufactured and assembled at our Ballymena factory, which means support for jobs in NI, and wider across the UK through our domestic supply chain.
“2022 has been a remarkable year for Wrightbus so far, as this deal comes after our recent, historic deals with the National Transport Authority (NTA), Australia and Germany. This latest deal with First Bus strengthens the reputation we have forged in the zero-emission transport sector and will help play an important part in the UK’s ambitions for decarbonisation.”
Transport Minister Baroness Vere said: “It’s fantastic to see First Bus place the largest ever order of electric buses outside London, thanks to investment from our £270 million scheme.
“This marks a key stepping-stone towards our National Bus Strategy commitment of funding 4,000 zero-emissions buses, as we decarbonise and level up transport across the country. Not only does it drive forward our journey to Net Zero but will also support hundreds of green, high-skilled jobs in the UK.”
This news follows the announcement earlier this year that Wrightbus had received an order for 120 electric buses, potentially increasing to 800, from the National Transport Authority (NTA) in Ireland. It’s good to hear the public transport system in the UK is picking up momentum in its move to becoming less polluting and more sustainable.