Traffic curbs and £83m 'make electric buses viable' in Oxford


Two bus operators have combined to launch the UK's biggest electric bus fleets outside London after a council agreed to implement traffic filters to offset the 'additional' costs of running electric vehicles.

The £82.5m project will deliver 159 new battery buses onto the roads of Oxford – the first of which have already gone into service. It has also funded two associated electric charging hubs at the city’s bus depots.

The roll-out has been funded through a collaboration between Oxfordshire County Council, Stagecoach and Oxford Bus Company, which is owned by The Go-Ahead Group.

The council was awarded £32.8m from the Government’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme and contributed £6m directly, while bus operators invested £45m.

Oxford Bus Company will deliver 104 electric buses into service and Stagecoach 55.

Oxfordshire councillors and CEO with Stagecoach MD Rachel Geliamassi and Mr Marion

The county council said it has committed to help reduce bus journey times by at least 10% in the city to ensure the investment is viable for bus operators.

It told Transport Network last year that bus filters, which it will trial this year, have the greatest benefit for bus journey times and productivity.

A spokesperson said: ‘The costs of owning and operating battery-electric buses are expected to be significantly higher than the existing diesel fleet.

‘Even with the grant offered, the increased operating costs compared to existing fleet over the life of the vehicles would make the whole proposition unviable without material bus productivity improvements (a minimum of 10%). Significantly reduced traffic congestion is required to achieve this productivity improvement.’

However, electric buses are usually seen as cheaper to run after the initial outlay of acquiring vehicles and installing charging facilities and Go-Ahead has confirmed that the funding package covered additional short-term costs of refitting its depot and connecting to a high voltage electricity supply.

Jean-Marc Gales, CEO of Wrightbus, which is supplying Oxford Bus Company, said: ‘We’re proud to say our StreetDeck Electroliner BEV is the world’s most efficient double deck battery-electric bus and we have taken that technology into the development of our single deck, which has also been classed as the most efficient on the UK’s roads.’

Oxford Bus Company managing director Luke Marion said: ‘Decarbonising buses is an exciting project – and we have demonstrated that with the right strategic partnership working between the public and private sector, we can unlock investment to make it happen.’

Working with fleet electrification specialist Zenobe, Oxford Bus Company has installed 104 charging points at its Cowley House depot, with Stagecoach installing charging points at its Network Oxford site.

The charging hubs are powered by EDF Energy’s Oxford Superhub network, providing enough electricity to charge all 159 buses, enough for each bus to drive up to 200 miles per day.

The Stagecoach vehicles are manufactured by Alexander Dennis in Scotland.

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