First Bus‘ depot in Leicester is set to become one of the UK’s first electrified bus depots outside of London. The operator has announced that Leicester site will join York and Norwich. Therefore, First Bus will have three fully electrified bus depots outside of the capital. What is more, this will set the precedent for a further 5 depots to become electrified by March 2024 through boosted ZEBRA funding, First Bus adds (On funding streams for zero emission buses in the UK, our RECAP might be useful).

The announcement came after First Bus and its local authority partner successfully secured Department for Transport (DfT) approval to boost their existing Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) funding.

At the conclusion of the ZEBRA projects, First Bus will have over 600 zero-emission buses in its fleet. This latest boost means First Bus currently has 328 fully electric buses on order with Ballymena-based Wrightbus (the latest order was issued a few weeks ago, with a previous one for 193 vehicles landed in September 2022).

first bus leicester depot
Copyright Mike Sewell 2023 21st March 2023 First Bus Leicester Electrification launch

86 e-buses in Leicester by March 2024

First Bus will invest £6.6m to bring this project to fruition, alongside additional DfT funding of £2.9m secured in partnership with Leicester City Council. 54% of the funding will be provided by First Bus, with the remaining 46% coming from the UK Government’s ZEBRA scheme. An additional 18 electric buses will arrive in Leicester later this year, with 86 hitting the road by March 2024.

First Bus will convert these depots and install the new infrastructure to house these state-of-the-art vehicles, in partnership with the local Distribution Network Operator and local authorities. New chargers will be provided by Heliox and can fully charge a bus in just 3.5 hours.

Roads and Local Transport Minister, Richard Holden, visited the Leicester depot today (21 March) to welcome the new fleet of ZEBRA-funded and British-built buses, courtesy of manufacturing partners Wrightbus. He said: “Buses are the most popular form of public transport, and these new UK-made zero emission buses will help make them more attractive still by providing cleaner, smoother and more reliable services across Leicester. We’re providing an extra three million pound to roll out 18 new electric buses to provide residents in Leicester with better, cleaner and quieter journeys, as we step up a gear to reach net zero faster and level up transport across the country.”

Leicester bus network to be zero emission by 2030

Janette Bell, Managing Director at First Bus, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that Leicester will become one of our blueprint bus depots of the future, helping us to refine and iterate this new concept so we can roll it out across the rest of the UK. At First Bus, we’re continuing to trailblaze with our partners to ensure we meet our net zero targets, supported by co-funding from the Department for Transport. As leaders in sustainable mobility, we are fully aligned with the Government’s ambitions for a net zero carbon transport system. Through this co-funding with the ZEBRA scheme, we’re excited to electrify another 5 of our UK depots before March 2024, and look forward to introducing even more electric buses to our constantly growing fleet”

first bus leicester depot
Copyright Mike Sewell 2023 21st March 2023 First Bus Leicester Electrification launch

Cllr Adam Clarke, deputy city mayor responsible for Transport, Clean Air and Climate Emergency said,  “As part of the Leicester Buses Partnership, we are committed to making the whole of Leicester’s bus network electric, or zero-emission, by 2030. I’m very pleased that our successful bids for electric bus funding have been able to support First Bus’ investment in these 86 new zero-emission buses. With our partners, we’re also delivering a range of complementary projects designed to make bus travel more attractive to customers. New bus shelters, real-time information displays, integrated timetables, additional bus lanes and ‘best fare’ ticketing are just some of the initiatives that will complement the welcome investment in sustainable transport that First Bus is making in Leicester.”

Ian Gillott, Managing Director (Parts and Services) at Wrightbus said: “Our partnership with First Bus is hugely significant in the drive to zero-emission public transport. It has been a real team effort between the local authority, Wrightbus and First Bus to deliver this exciting project. We can’t wait to see these buses in operation in Leicester, which will help passengers enjoy comfortable and cleaner transport. We are consistently at the forefront of zero and low-emission travel and would be delighted to progress future orders, dependent on future co-funding opportunities.”


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