A fleet of 159 electric buses is set to serve Oxford and its surrounding areas after a bid for government funding was approved. Oxfordshire County Council has been awarded £32.8 million from the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme.
Oxford: electric buses are coming
Along with £43.7m from bus companies Stagecoach and the Go-Ahead Group, which includes the Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel, and City Sightseeing Oxford, plus £6m from the council the scheme will deliver the electric buses and the infrastructure to charge them in a package worth £82.5m.
This funding will support plans to create a zero carbon transport network in Oxford. Last month, Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council announced updated proposals to introduce a city wide workplace parking levy, traffic filters and a wider zero emission zone.
The proposed traffic filters will help reduce bus journey times by at least 10 per cent in the city. Consultations on the traffic filters, zero emission zone and workplace parking levy will take place in summer this year, with a decision due at the county council’s Cabinet in the autumn. The commitment from bus operators is dependent on reduced bus journey times. The county council will receive funding from the government after its Cabinet has made a decision on the proposed traffic filters.
Electric buses in the Oxford Smart Zone
The new electric buses will be used on bus routes operating wholly within the Oxford Smart Zone, an area covering all of Oxford and stretching from Kidlington in the north to Sandford in the south, and from Cumnor in the west to Wheatley in the east. They will save an estimated 9,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year – the equivalent of taking more than 6,000 cars off the road. They could start to be delivered to Oxfordshire’s roads between the summer of 2023 and the spring of 2024.
Phil Southall, Managing Director of Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel and City Sightseeing Oxford said: “This is excellent news and a pivotal step in our collective aim to radically improve air quality in Oxford. Go-Ahead Group, Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel have always been at the forefront of introducing sustainable low-carbon technology in the UK and Oxfordshire bus operators have committed £43m to the electric programme. However, to make a fleet transition financially viable we need to speed up bus journey times by 10 per cent.
“We now look forward to the public consultation on transport and connectivity in Oxford this summer. We are committed to a zero emission future, but the cost of delivery makes it critical we all work together to ensure it is delivered effectively. If this can be done, we can provide 159 electric buses in two years.”
Bill Cotton, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Environment and Place, said: “This is wonderful news for Oxfordshire and a major leap forward for transport decarbonisation and cleaner air in the county. Along with other transport schemes proposed in Oxford, this new fleet of electric buses will transform our public transport system and encourage more people to travel by bus. We are looking forward to working with our partners at Stagecoach, Go-Ahead and Oxford City Council to create a sustainable and reliable public transport system.”
Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director at Stagecoach West, said: “We welcome today’s announcement, which will complement the significant investment and initiatives by operators as we work together to transition to a zero emission bus fleet and help the country achieve its net zero ambitions. Stagecoach has already started its journey towards our target of a fully zero emission UK bus fleet by 2035, and there is also a major opportunity to deliver cleaner air by people switching to more sustainable public transport, cycling and walking. Britain’s buses have an exciting future ahead, helping decarbonise the country, as well as driving economic recovery and levelling up our communities.”
Tom Bridgman, Executive Director for Development at Oxford City Council, said: “The city council welcomes this government funding which will support both councils’ plans announced last month to introduce a city wide workplace parking levy, traffic filters and city centre zero emission zone.
“In order to achieve the maximum benefits of having a modern electric bus fleet, Oxford’s roads need to have more space for buses, cyclists, and pedestrians to move freely, and quickly – without being stuck in traffic. The city council will be working with Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford’s bus companies on making the case for the traffic-reduction measures which would facilitate the delivery of these new electric buses, one of the key benefits for Oxford and the county as a whole.”