First Leicester starts work on electric bus infrastructure

First Leicester begins work for battery electric bus fleet

First Leicester has broken ground on infrastructure work to support 68 battery-electric buses that are being part-funded via a Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) fast-track bid submitted by Leicester City Council. 

The first of the Wrightbus GB Kite Electroliner single-deckers will arrive from March 2023. To support them, over 10km of cable are being installed at the operating centre. As a further part of the upgrade work, solar panels will be fitted to the south-facing side of the depot roof. They are expected to generate 54% of the building’s requirements, not including that used to charge the buses. 

In total, £29.1m is being put to the First Leicester project. That includes ZEBRA money and capital investment from the operator. When all 68 of the GB Kite Electroliners are in use, they will account for approximately two-thirds of group’s fleet in the East Midlands. 60 tonnes of exhaust emissions per year will be saved by each member of the electric bus fleet, First Leicester claims. 

Work by the Leicester Bus Partnership aims to have half of the city’s overall bus network converted to zero-emission operation by 2025 and the transition complete by 2030. Both Arriva Midlands and Centrebus have also recently either placed into service or ordered such vehicles that are part-funded by the LCC ZEBRA bid. 

To mark the start of electrification work by First Leicester, Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby (pictured, lower left), Deputy Mayor Adam Clarke (pictured, upper second from left) and LCC Programme Manager (Buses) Andy Gibbons (pictured, upper third from left) visited the depot. 

They were joined by First Bus Chief Sustainability and Compliance Officer Isabel McAllister (pictured, lower right), First Leicester Operations Director Rob Hughes (pictured, upper third from right) and Brookes Development Operations Director Mario De Luca (pictured, upper left). Brookes is managing and coordinating the work. It has already been involved in other schemes with First Bus. 

Says Mr Hughes: “This is an exciting project that is not only planned to improve the journey experience for our customers with the arrival of 68 brand new electric buses, but is a major transformation of our depot and its functions. 

“We are working closely with the construction team on site to minimise any disruption to our day-to-day requirement to operate efficiently, and we are keeping our staff up to date on the weekly progression of the project.”

The 68 buses for Leicester form the largest single portion of an order for 193 battery-electrics placed with Wrightbus by First Bus earlier in 2022. The group’s businesses in Leeds, Norwich, Portsmouth and York will also benefit, all via successful ZEBRA bids.