The inaugural Oxford Bus Summit took place recently at the Said Business School in Oxford. The event was hosted by world-leading sustainability multi-media company, Green TV, which runs the hugely successful EV Summit.
The basis of the summit was to create an opportunity for key figures from business, politics, consumer groups and the bus industry to explore how Oxfordshire can achieve a net-zero transportation system in the coming years.
The event included key speakers from the bus industry including Luke Marion, Interim managing director of Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel and Rachel Geliamassi, managing director at Stagecoach Bus. It was good to see the two competing companies coming together at the event to work towards sustainable bus travel in the county.
Along with the bus company representatives, councillor Liz Leffman, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, and Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP also did presentations at the event. Unfortunately, Anneliese Dodds, Labour MP, was unable to appear due to catching Covid.
The Summit explored issues including how to improve bus patronage, how to introduce bus priority improvements and reduce bus journey times. It follows confirmation that Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet approved its draft enhanced partnership (EP) document for submission to the government.
The EP sets out plans by the county council, bus operators and its partners, to help bring passenger levels back to pre-pandemic levels. Earlier this year, the county council and bus companies Go-Ahead and Stagecoach were successful in their bid to bring 159 electric buses to Oxford and its surrounding areas.
The bid received £32.8 million from the government’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas Scheme meaning that, along with £6m from the council and £43.7m from bus companies, the package for buses and the infrastructure to charge them is worth £82.5m. Delivery is dependent on improving bus journey times by 10 percent.
Luke Marion, Interim Interim Managing Director of Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel, said: “Oxfordshire’s inaugural Bus Summit really helped further educate key stakeholders on the huge opportunity we have in the county to vastly reduce our carbon footprint via improved connectivity and the introduction of net-zero bus technology.
“There was a lot of positive energy in the room and it is crucial we continue to work together to deliver our ambitious vision for what could be the UK’s leading electric bus network.”
Wrightbus brought their StreetDeck Electroliner electric bus along to the event for the attendees to see the future of zero-emissions public transport. The company recently announced it had received an order for 120 electric buses, potentially increasing to 800, from the National Transport Authority (NTA) in Ireland.
Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director at Stagecoach Bus, said: “Being a part of events like the Bus Summit give me optimism that we are really on the edge of transformation.
“I’m hopeful that this newly forged partnership will stand strong as we decarbonise our bus network and realise our shared vision. The rest of the UK should watch this space as we drive Oxfordshire into exciting new territory.”
Daniel Bentham from the Green Investment Group also gave a presentation and talked about the importance of accelerating the transition to net zero and how battery electric buses are the future. He also talked about Charging-as-a-Service (CaaS) which allows bus companies to scale the electrification of their fleets and meet decarbonisation targets.
Dan Bentham, Green Investment Group senior vice president, said: “The UK is set on a path to electrification with electric buses leading the way in many cities and regions across the country.
“It was incredibly motivating to hear firsthand at the Oxford Bus Summit how bus operators, local authorities, central government, bus manufacturers, consumer groups and finance providers are all working together to deliver the common goal of a greener, fairer and healthier public transport system.
“At the heart of this goal is delivering new infrastructure, which is incredibly challenging and costly. This is why we have developed Charging-as-a-Service (CaaS) which addresses the four key pain points for fleet operators, allowing them to scale their fleet electrification activities at pace and to meet their decarbonisation commitments.”
The whole event was hugely successful and provided a platform for discussion about bus use in Oxfordshire and how it can move forwards to help all users as it moves towards cleaner electric buses.
Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management, said: “Effective public transport is key to many of our priorities as a council. We want to invest in an inclusive, integrated and sustainable countywide transport network, fit for the 21st century, and significantly reduce reliance on car journeys.
“Buses are also central to helping address the climate emergency and tackling inequalities in the county.The bus companies have been hit hard by the pandemic, shortages of drivers and uncertainty over financial support from the Government.
“Through our ambitious plans, we aim to tackle these problems and look forward to working with the bus companies on improving the situation for the county’s existing and future passengers.”