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.
Hailed a ‘depot of the future,’ Leicester will set the precedent for a further 5 depots to become electrified by March 2024 through boosted ZEBRA funding.
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.
Roads and Local Transport Minister, Richard Holden, visited the Leicester depot today (21 March) to welcome the order for a new fleet of ZEBRA-funded and British-built buses, courtesy of manufacturing partners Wrightbus.
Minister Holden 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.
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, which will help secure green jobs in the short-term.
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.”
Supporting the heart of the communities it serves, 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.
All ZEBRA projects are run in close partnership with the local authorities in these regions, bringing transformational results to the local bus fleet and enhancing journeys for communities and the environment.