LEICESTER is set to increase its fleet of zero emission, all-electric buses with almost 100 new vehicles over the next three years, it has been announced.
The city council has successfully bid for £19million from the Government’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme, towards a £47million programme that will see the introduction of 96 new electric buses which will operate on 21 of the city’s main routes.
Leicester City Council will work in partnership with local operators FirstBus and Arriva which will provide match-funding of around £15.7million and £10.1million respectively, with the city council contributing £2.2million towards the ambitious programme.
The programme will see 68 new single decker electric buses operated by First Bus.
It will also see the introduction of the city’s first all-electric double-decker buses, with 22 new vehicles due to be operated by Arriva.
The city council will own and lease out six all-electric single decker buses on contracted routes serving the city.
All 96 of the new electric buses are expected to be in operation by spring of 2024. This will mean that over a third of Leicester’s bus fleet will be fully electric, serving routes that are used by over half of the city’s bus passengers.
It is estimated that the new zero emission buses will help reduce the city’s carbon footprint by the equivalent of 91 tonnes of CO2 per year, and 44 tonnes of NO2 – a main component of air pollution.
Deputy city mayor Cllr Adam Clarke, who leads on environment and transportation, said: “This is a huge boost for the city’s efforts to tackle the climate emergency and represents a massive commitment from local bus operators working with the city council to bring more cleaner, greener travel to Leicester. “This successful bid is testament to the value of the enormous amount of ongoing work being carried out by the council in partnership with our local bus operators.
“This new investment builds on the introduction of electric buses to our park and ride services, major investment in improving bus priority on busy routes across the city and the £13.5million redevelopment of St Margaret’s which will see Leicester become home to the UK’s first carbon neutral bus station building.
“It’s all part of an ambitious citywide programme of investment in sustainable transport and in practical measures that will help us all do our bit to address the urgent climate emergency we’re facing.”
Nigel Eggleton, Managing Director at First Leicester said” The introduction of 68 brand new electric single deck buses into our fleet will make a significant improvement to the journey experience for our customers and to the local environment. The successful bid I’m sure will be welcomed by communities across the city, and it shows just what can be achieved when organisations work together in partnership to improve bus service provision for local people.
“This announcement is a huge step forward in delivering zero emission bus travel that will not only improve air quality, but should help encourage our communities to switch to using buses, as their preferred method of travel across the city. Exciting times are ahead and I want to thank Leicester City Council for their hard work in submitting a successful bid and we look forward to working with them on developing the infrastructure that is required to power and run the buses prior to their arrival.”
Paul O’Neil, Managing Director at Arriva UK Bus, said: “This is great news for Leicester and for our customers. We were delighted to support the Council’s bid to the Government with our £10.1m investment over the next three years. This is the latest milestone in Arriva’s decarbonisation journey; we are committed to working with partners in every region that we operate to deliver as many zero emissions vehicles as swiftly as possible.”
Minister Baroness Vere said: “On top of cutting noise pollution and cleaning up the air in our towns and cities, zero emission buses will make greener travel the more convenient option for millions of people across the country.
“I’m delighted we’ve been able to provide this transformational funding. We will continue to invest in green technology as we build back better from the pandemic and deliver our commitment to reduce the UK’s emissions to net zero by 2050.”
Earlier this year, a fleet of electric buses powered by 100% renewable energy were introduced to replace diesel vehicles on Leicester’s three park & ride routes. The eleven new buses operate on the routes linking Meynell’s Gorse, Birstall and Enderby with the city centre.
The first of the 96 new electric buses are expected to be running from March 2023.
This is part of an ambitious plane the city council and local bus operators are developing to improve services, vehicles and routes across Leicester and encourage more people to use the city’s public transport network.as part of a 10-year project.
The Leicester Bus Services Improvement Plan (LBIP) proposals sets out measures to modernise and upgrade bus travel throughout the city, including bringing in over 200 fully electric buses, improving reliability and frequency of services, automated digital ticketing, as well as introducing bus lane and signal measures to give priority to public transport.
Encouraging more people to use sustainable transport and cutting the carbon cost of public transport are key aims of the first Leicester Climate Emergency Strategy. The strategy sets out an ambitious vision for how the city needs to change to move towards becoming carbon-neutral and adapting to the effects of global heating by 2030, or sooner.