The first buses part-funded by the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme in England have been delivered. They are six Yutong E10 battery-electric models owned by Leicester City Council (LCC) and which will be operated by Centrebus on an Orbital-branded service circumnavigating the city from 24 October.
£1.2m of ZEBRA funding has gone towards the buses out of a much larger award to Leicester City Council via the scheme’s fast-track mechanism. The local authority has also invested £2.1m in the project. Centrebus houses the E10s at its Thurmaston depot.
Orbital will succeed the existing diesel operated Circleline. LCC expects to see operating costs reduce by over £60,000 per annum, with the removal of a predicted 177 tonnes of CO2 emissions over the same period.
The Orbital route is a fifth service in Leicester to be taken over by battery-electric buses. LCC says that it “is designed to… connect and integrate with other services within the Leicester Buses Partnership.” It is 30 miles in length.
Deputy City Mayor for transport, clean air and climate emergency Cllr Adam Clarke notes that the Leicester Buses Partnership – launched in April – has allowed electrification of Orbital to progress at pace. The new E10s have onboard displays, and contactless ‘best fare’ ticketing and real-time information is provided.
Centrebus Director David Brookes adds that the opening of ZEBRA delivery by the operator and LCC “is testament to the speed at which the City Council and our fellow partners have delivered this project.”
Adds Mr Brookes: “Together with the upgraded bus stop infrastructure and additional real-time information displays across the city, these buses will not only improve air quality but also encourage people to leave their cars at home and use public transport. We are proud to be part of the Greenlines network and the wider Leicester Buses project.”
Subject to further funding, LCC hopes to see what it describes as “a tram-style bus network serving the whole city.” £10m worth of bus priority measures are central to that ambition. If it is delivered, the orbital route will grow to involve 20 battery-electric buses operating every 15 minutes against the present hourly timetable.
Pelican Bus and Coach has provided the E10s. Says Head of Yutong Sales Ian Downie: “We are honoured to supply the very first ZEBRA-funded zero-emission vehicles to Leicester City Council. Our fully air-conditioned Yutong vehicles are the most efficient single-deck buses in the UK. The products are tried, tested and proven, with enhanced passenger-centric features, and they bring class-leading comfort to Leicester.”
Conversion of Orbital in Leicester to battery-electric operation follows the same work with park-and-ride services and the Hospital Hopper. All are part of Greenlines, which Cllr Clarke says is intended to help “fill gaps and connect the commercial network for the public benefit while also helping to meet our net zero ambition.”