Oxfordshire County Council has applied for £32.8 million from the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme. Along with £6m from the council and £43.7m from bus companies Go Ahead and Stagecoach, the scheme could deliver 159 electric buses and the infrastructure to charge them in a package worth £82.5m.
If successful, the electric buses would operate in an area stretching from Kidlington in the north to Sandford in the south, and from Cumnor in the west to Wheatley in the east. They would save an estimated 9,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year – the equivalent of taking more than 6,000 cars off the road.
Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management, said: “This government's levelling up agenda aims to ‘bring the rest of the country's public transport up to London standards’. That is a laudable and ambitious aim. It can only be achieved by significant and determined investment in our bus network and doesn't currently match the reality on the ground.
“That is why I hope our transformational electric bus bid is supported. The county council will then do its bit to re-engineer the network to make that investment work effectively and efficiently. This is what government say they want, what our bus operators need and, ultimately, what our residents deserve.”
Councillor Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, said: “To clean up our air, we need to clean up the emissions produced by getting around. The importance of a zero emissions bus fleet is clear as we seek to achieve our ambitious target to become a net zero city by 2040 or sooner.
“It's also important for improving the experience for bus passengers. As we introduce Britain’s first zero emission zone pilot, the submission of the ZEBRA bid is timely and critically important to bring about the large-scale adoption of electric buses across our city. I am looking forward to hearing the outcome of this bid and taking the next steps towards a zero carbon Oxford by 2040.”
Phil Southall, Managing Director of Oxford Bus Company, said: “We are hugely supportive of this ambitious and exciting vision to significantly improve Oxford’s air quality and carbon emissions. Go-Ahead Group and Oxford Bus Company have always been at the forefront of introducing sustainable low-carbon technology in the UK. More than three-quarters of our fleet meets the Euro VI emissions standard and three of our Oxford city sightseeing vehicles are already electric.
“A scheme of this scale of course comes with challenges and the significant bus operator investment required to support the transition to electric will require public policies to reduce congestion, speed up bus journey times by 10 per cent, and encourage active travel such as cycling and walking.”
Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director at Stagecoach West, said: “We’re pleased to have been able to support Oxfordshire County Council with the bid for an electric bus fleet. If the bid is successful, it will be a monumental step forward towards decarbonising public transport in Oxford and, once aligned with the delivery of Connecting Oxford, will truly transform bus travel in the city.
“This investment forms an important part of Stagecoach’s strategy to deliver a zero emission bus fleet across the UK in support of the country’s net zero ambitions. This, combined with encouraging motorists to switch from cars to more sustainable transport options, such as buses, offers the best possible solution for reducing carbon emissions and improving local air quality.”
The bid demonstrates Oxfordshire’s ambitions to be a global leader in transport decarbonisation through the radical transformation of Oxford’s transport system, reconfiguring it for a zero-carbon future. Decarbonisation of Oxford’s bus network by 2030 is a vital part of these plans.
The government decision is expected next month and, if successful, the new electric buses should start to be delivered to Oxford’s roads between the summer of 2023 and the spring of 2024.