Plans have been announced for a new free electric bus service connecting key destinations within Leicester city centre.
The new Greenlines ‘Hop!’ service will see state-of-the-art electric buses operating in the city centre, offering free travel on a route connecting Leicester’s transport hubs with many of the city’s attractions and other key destinations.
Hop! will operate on a clockwise loop around the city centre, serving St Margaret’s Bus Station, Haymarket Bus Station, Leicester Market, Leicester Royal Infirmary and St Nicholas Circle, improving accessibility and making it far easier for people to get around the city.
It is due to come into service in March 2023, and more details will be finalised over the coming months, including appointing an operator and agreeing the exact route and timetable.
The proposals are outlined in a report going to Leicester City Council’s Economic Development, Transport and Climate Emergency Scrutiny Commission on August 31, along with an update on the progress with the Leicester Buses Partnership, which was launched in April 2022 to bring together all the local bus operators and Leicester City Council, to work jointly on addressing both the city’s transport needs and its environmental responsibilities.
The Hop! service forms part of the integrated Greenlines electric network, which currently includes the Hospital Hopper service and the Birstall, Meynell’s Gorse and Enderby Park and Ride services which terminate at St Nicholas Circle. It follows a successful bid for funding from the national Transforming Cities Fund (TCF).
By purchasing a fleet of fully electric buses to serve the Greenlines network, public transport is contributing towards delivering a net-zero carbon city, alongside many other actions including the new St Margaret’s Bus Station, the UK’s first net-zero bus station, which opened earlier this summer.
Greenlines passengers will also be able to benefit from new real-time bus information, free USB charging, next stop audio visual announcements and text-to-speech facilities to help make bus use more accessible.
Forthcoming innovations set out in the report include the introduction of six new council-owned electric buses operating on the Orbital route (currently route 40) which loops the whole of the city in both directions, serving Glenfield Hospital, Beaumont Leys, Mowmacre Hill, Hamilton, Netherhall, General Hospital, Oadby, Wigston, Thorpe Astley and Fosse Park.
Electric buses will come into service on the Orbital route in November 2022, as the latest addition to the Greenlines electric network.
A further 90 electric buses will be introduced on many other services operated by Arriva and Firstbus during 2023, thanks to a council-funding bid and operator investment.
Leicester deputy city mayor with responsibility for transport, clean air and climate emergency, Cllr Adam Clarke, said: “The Leicester Buses Partnership has set out a detailed eight-year plan to significantly improve public transport in and around the city – something that is needed to reduce congestion, fight the climate emergency and better connect people to home, work and leisure.
“The new city centre Hop! service promises to provide people with an easily accessible, free transport option connecting sites around the city, meaning people can easily get to places like the bus stations, the market, LRI and St Nicholas Circle and make onward journeys from these places.
“We’re proud of our city centre and want those who might struggle to access it, including older residents and people with mobility problems, to be able to enjoy all it has to offer, sustainably. The new Hop! will also be an attractive service for people visiting our city on business or as tourists.
“There’s even more to follow as new electric buses are being introduced as part of the orbital route – 90 new electric buses are due to be introduced in 2023, helping us to intervene in the commercial bus network and to plug gaps in it with buses we own. This is all part of our work to make the city much easier to travel around without the need to use a car, especially for shorter journeys.”
Other key improvements brought in as part of the Leicester Buses Partnership include the “Tap On Tap Off” digital fare system – the first outside of London – which automatically enables passengers to get the best fare for the journey they have made, even if they’ve used more than one operator.
Commitments due to be delivered over the next 18 months include:
A third of the city’s bus network – around 130 vehicles – to be electric by 2024
Six significant bus priority schemes covering a fifth of the main bus routes
Two additional park and ride sites
New ticket discount schemes
650 new real-time displays
500 new bus shelters, including the country’s largest collection of ‘living roof’ shelters to help local biodiversity
Longer term goals include:
Further investment in bus priority schemes on the remaining radial bus corridors
Significant investment in express cross-city routes by 2025, to enable people to get to workplaces in more outlying areas
Ensuring half the bus network – around 270 buses – are electric by 2025, and all electric or zero emission by 2030
Making buses more frequent on important routes for employment
Trialling fare discounts for younger passengers
More details of the Hop! service are available at the Leicester Buses website.
NOTE: Image shows how the new Hop! service buses could look.