A FREE electric bus service that will connect transport hubs, shopping areas and visitor attractions in Leicester city centre will be launched next week, making it much easier for people – especially those with mobility difficulties – to get around.
From Monday (3 April), the new Greenlines Hop! service will link the train station with the city’s bus stations and destinations including Leicester Market, the Highcross shopping centre, the King Richard III Visitor Centre, the LRI and Mandela Park.
Three zero-emission green buses – each seating 21 passengers – will operate every 10 minutes on an anti-clockwise loop, with 12 stops along the route.
Running from 8am-6pm from Monday to Saturday, the new buses will be fitted with electronic information displays, next stop announcements, WiFi and USB charging at each seat, while each of the stops will offer real-time information displays and text-to-speech facilities.
Branded with a friendly frog motif, the Hop! buses will also have a unique sound, with all three buses fitted with a distinctive ‘ribbit’-effect bell.
The city council will launch the free service on an 18-month trial basis as one of its Leicester Buses Partnership commitments.
Director of planning, development and transportation Andrew Smith said: “This free, green and sustainable travel option will give many people - particularly those with mobility issues – much easier access to key sites around the city centre.
“Since we announced the new Hop! service a fortnight ago, public reaction has been extremely positive, with people welcoming the idea of a free, shuttle linking Leicester’s transport hubs with popular destinations.
“We’ll be monitoring usage and evaluating feedback during the trial, and hope that people will enjoy using these latest additions to Leicester’s growing fleet of electric buses.”
Three fully-accessible zero-emission electric midi buses, costing around £1million, have been purchased for the Hop! scheme, thanks to a successful bid for funding from the Department for Transport’s Transforming Cities Fund.
Centrebus have been contracted to operate the service, with the city council funding the scheme and its promotion with a budget of around £325,000.
David Brookes, commercial and operations director at Centrebus, said: “Hop! will be the latest addition to the ever-increasing network of electric bus routes in Leicester. It will not only provide a new and sustainable way to get around the city centre, but will also contribute to better air quality and reduce carbon emissions.
“Centrebus are proud to be working with the city council on this project. We hope the service will prove popular with passengers and we’re excited to launch these new electric vehicles in the city centre.”
Louise Collins, senior stakeholder manager for independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Transport Focus welcomes the launch of Hop! services by Leicester Buses Partnership, providing free bus services around Leicester city centre. This is a great initiative that gives passengers what they want – a frequent and reliable service that links key transport hubs with popular destinations.
“This will go a long way to help people see that buses are an attractive way to make journeys that are good for air quality and the environment.”
More information about Hop! is available at leicesterbuses.co.uk/hop
The Hop! service is the latest addition to Leicester’s Greenlines network. Electric buses are already operating on the Hospital Hopper service, the Orbital service, and the Park & Ride services at Birstall, Meynell’s Gorse and Enderby.
Subject to funding availability, Greenlines will be expanded over the next eight years, helping to improve the city’s air quality, cut emissions, and make high-quality sustainable public transport accessible to all.
It forms part of the range of projects being delivered by the Leicester Buses Partnership to improve public transport, reduce congestion and better connect people to home, work and leisure.
The Leicester Buses Partnership 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.
Picture caption: The new free Hop! service will start operation on Monday 3 April.