Electric bus fleet order will drive emissions reduction

A county council has secured a deal which will see the first vehicles in a fleet of 159 new battery electric buses arrive in one of Britain’s oldest cities this year.

The £82.5 million deal between Oxfordshire County Council and several bus companies will see the fleet utilised in Oxford as part of the county’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme.

The council was awarded £32.8 million from the government’s ZEBRA scheme and that along with £6 million from the council itself and £43.7 million from bus companies Stagecoach and the Go-Ahead Group, which includes the Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel, and City Sightseeing Oxford, will enable the delivery the electric buses and the infrastructure to charge them.

Following the signing of contracts between the bus companies and 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.”

Rachel Geliamassi, managing director for Stagecoach West, 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.”

UK roads minister Richard Holden 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.”

Transport is the largest contributor to nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emissions in Oxford, accounting for two thirds of the total emissions, with both diesel cars and buses contributing to roughly one third of the transport emissions each.

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.