11 Yutong E12 battery-electric buses entered service on three park-and-ride services in Leicester on 24 May. Operated by Roberts Travel Group, they will be joined in the city by seven further battery-electric models by autumn 2022 and potentially enough to operate one-third of the city’s network by 2024 under ambitious plans from Leicester City Council (LCC).
The Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) has paid most of the £7.1m that will be required for the 18 buses that are either in service or funded. Pelican Bus and Coach has supplied the 11 E12s, while Zenobe has provided the charging station at Roberts’ depot in Coalville. The park-and-ride fleet is powered by 100% renewable electricity, LCC says.
The Yutongs represent the start of what the local authority calls the Greenline Electric Bus Project. It has the potential to see well over 100 such vehicles enter service in the city. In the short term, the E12s will be followed by four further battery-electric buses this autumn for the Hospital Hopper service. Three more will launch a new, free city centre shuttle a year later.
TCF money is also funding the £7m required for complementary works such as priority measures, shelters, digital ticketing and real time displays along with the creation of two new electric bus park-and-ride sides at Beaumont Leys and the General Hospital.
Deputy Mayor Cllr Adam Clarke says that the next phase of the Greenline Electric Bus Project “is to secure funding that could allow up to 100 more electric buses to be purchased for Leicester.”
Cllr Clarke adds that LCC will be working with operators in the city and the Department for Transport “to support the introduction of electric [buses] across commercial routes in the next two to three years.”
Besides the planned additional park-and-ride services, LCC says that CircleLine service 40, operated by Centrebus, figures in its hopes for further early conversions. LCC’s website also raises the possible introduction of a Workplace Parking Levy to fund future electric bus purchases.
On the Yutong E12s, Roberts Travel Group Managing Director Jonathan Hunt says he is “really pleased” that the Coalville business will be the first operator in Leicester with electric buses. Roberts has been working on the project for 18 months, Mr Hunt adds.
Head of Yutong Bus UK Ian Downie notes that despite challenges brought on by COVID-19, the buses and their associated infrastructure have been delivered on time and on budget. That has come about through partnership working between all parties concerned, he says.
Adds Mr Downie: “The vehicles were fully completed in the UK at the Pelican premises in Castleford, with driver and engineering training undertaken with the excellent team at Roberts. We are delighted to see these buses enter service in Leicester, improving air quality and the passenger experience while encouraging people to get out of their cars and onto public transport.”