First Bus orders 193 electric buses as Go Ahead adds nine to Newcastle fleet
UPDATED: Public transport operator First Bus has placed what it claims is one of the largest electric bus orders in UK history, ordering 193 vehicles from Wrightbus.
The buses will be delivered to First Bus and its local authority partners from March 2023 and the full rollout is expected to be completed within two years. The order is for a mix of single-decker and double-decker buses, to be built at Wrightbus’ facility in Ballymena, Northern Ireland.
Local authorities that First Bus has partnered with to roll out the buses are Leicester City Council (88 buses), the City of York Council (44 buses), the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (32 buses), Portsmouth City and Hampshire County Councils (34 buses) and Norfolk County Council (15 buses).
In each region, the introduction of the buses will help drive progress towards air quality and emissions goals. Leicester is targeting council emissions “as close to net-zero as possible by 2030”. York has a 2030 net-zero target, as do Portsmouth and Norfolk, while Leeds’ is set at 2038.
First Bus itself has pledged to operate a zero-emission fleet within the UK by 2035.
In total, the order for the 193 new buses is priced at £81m. First Bus is investing £43m and the Department for Transport (DfT) is providing the remaining £38m in grant form, through the Zero-Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) initiative. First Bus will also be investing in charging infrastructure at its depots for the new vehicles.
“This is another significant deal for Wrightbus – the largest zero-emissions bus order outside of London – and we are delighted to once again be partnering with First Bus in the drive to zero-emission public transport,” said the manufacturer’s chief commercial officer Ben Werth.
“First Bus, like us, is consistently on the forefront of new and exciting technology and at the forefront of zero- and low-emission travel.”
In related news, First Bus competitor Go Ahead Group has added nine new electric buses to its fleet in Newcastle and Gateshead. The buses are single-deckers from Voltra, a Swedish truck and heavy vehicle specialist. They will serve the Q3 route from Great Park to Wallsend.
Go Ahead Group invested £2m in the vehicles itself and also had support from the DfT through the Ultra-Low Emission Bus Fund. It will charge the buses using renewable electricity.
Go North East’s managing director Nigel Featham said: “We hope that by adding to our zero-emission bus fleet, we can help flip the switch on people’s behaviour and see more people across our region leave the car behind to help reduce congestion on our roads and improve air quality for us all.”
At a national level, the UK’s National Bus Strategy was updated in March 2021. Consultation results arising from the Strategy will be used to determine the implementation date for a ban on new petrol and diesel bus sales, similar to the 2030 requirement for cars and vans.
The DfT has proposed that the ban should be brought into effect by 2032 at the latest. The private sector seems to be moving faster than policy here; organisations representing more than 95% of the UK’s bus industry have pledged to only invest in low-emission vehicles from 2025, through the industry body the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT).
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