Oxford’s £82.5-million transition to a fully battery-electric bus fleet has taken major steps forward with the commencement of Stagecoach West’s charging hub in the city and the arrival of the Oxford Bus Company’s (OBC) first demo vehicle.
Stagecoach’s new “Network Oxford” site, which is being installed by Zenobe, will accommodate the overnight powering of 55 new Alexander Dennis Enviro400EV double-deckers when they arrive for use from March 2024 onwards.
Meanwhile, the first of a 104-strong order from Wrightbus for Go-Ahead-owned OBC will allow the operator to finalise its driving training programme.
The electrification is funded by Oxfordshire County Council’s successful £32.8m Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) bid, plus £6m from the Council and £43.7m from Stagecoach and OBC.
Network Oxford, which is currently used by the operator for vehicle storage and as a space for training manoeuvres, is the 15th fleet electrification project by Stagecoach to be delivered in partnership with Zenobe. According to Stagecoach, the buses in Oxford will save an estimated 9,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director at Stagecoach West, says: “Stagecoach is fully committed to having a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035 so beginning this important project is incredibly exciting and a major leap towards our ultimate goal.
“The launch of electric buses in Oxford builds on the successful introduction in other major cities across the UK improving air quality and making bus travel an even more attractive option for everyone.”
Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highway Management, adds: “After all the hard work that went into putting together Oxfordshire’s successful bid to secure 159 electric buses, it is incredibly exciting to see the preparations taking place to begin welcoming their arrival.
“This project represents the biggest ever investment in public transport in the county. We are backing our commitment to deliver public transport for residents with political and financial capital, and working with the bus companies, including Stagecoach West, and the government to make it happen.”
OBC’s total consignment will comprise 99 StreetDeck Electroliner double-deckers and five GB Kite Electroliner single-deckers and roll-out will begin at some point later this year. They will be housed at one of the largest charging hub’s in the UK, work on which began in July.
The advance vehicle will allow drivers to explore the unique features and technical aspects of the vehicles, says the operator. The buses will all be fitted with free customer wi-fi, at-seat USB chargers and audio-visual next stop announcement systems.
Jean-Marc Gales, CEO of Wrightbus, says: “As a market leader in sustainable transport and zero-emission technology, we are proud to be delivering an order of our electric buses to yet another city in the UK.
“Our buses have a vital role to play in decarbonising public transport and in enabling operators, local authorities and governments to meet their carbon reduction targets.
“We are delighted to assist the Oxford Bus Company in their commitment to offering zero-emission public transport in the city which will ensure a quieter, more comfortable ride for customers.”
Luke Marion, OBC Managing Director, adds: “We are working closely with Wrightbus as part of our preparation for our transition to electrification.
“Taking delivery of the demonstrator vehicle is a key part of ensuring our drivers and engineers are given the best possible training ahead of the delivery of the first electric buses later in the year.
“It is another exciting step forward in our ambition to deliver an all-electric city fleet which will improve air quality and make bus travel an even more attractive option for people to travel around Oxford.”