Oxford moves closer to an electric bus future

A new fleet of fully electric buses could be coming to Oxford after Oxfordshire County Council's proposals made the final shortlist in a government scheme. 

It would mean that up to 166 brand new electric buses could be introduced. If Oxford is successful in winning the requested funding, the electric buses would operate in an area stretching from Kidlington in the north to Sandford in the south, and from Cumnor in the west to Wheatley in the east. More than £78 million could be invested in the local public transport network should the bid for funding make it through the final round of the government’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme.

Councillor Duncan Enright, Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy, said: “I’m thrilled with this fantastic news. We’ve demonstrated that Oxford is fully committed to becoming even cleaner and greener, and that we have the partnerships ready to move quickly to a cleaner future with electric buses. Along with growth in electric vehicles, our electric demand responsive bus service and all the work we’re doing with sustainable energy, we’re well on the way to a carbon neutral future.”

Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company Managing Director, said: “This project represents a major investment by bus operators and demonstrates our long-term commitment to continuing to improve air quality in our city, in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council. There is a lot to do to ensure delivery, including gaining confirmation of the additional government funding, and introducing a number of the bus priority schemes in the councils Connecting Oxford traffic-reduction plan to overcome congestion and ensure buses can be fully effective.”

Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director for Stagecoach West, said: "Buses will play a crucial role in supporting the recovery of the country in decarbonising local journeys, reducing road congestion, improving air quality and tackling climate change. We welcome the news that Oxfordshire's proposals for investment in new electric buses have progressed through to the next stage in the government's scheme. We will now be working closely with Oxfordshire County Council and others on the development of more detailed plans.”

The ZEBRA initiative was launched in March 2021 and forms a £120m commitment from a wider £3bn government fund allocated to improve bus services under the national bus strategy. The county council submitted its expression of interest for the scheme in July.

The county council’s shortlisted proposals for Oxford set out the city’s green and sustainable ambitions. Now the council must now develop a full business case by January 2022, which, if successful, could see a new electric fleet of buses on the streets from later next year. The scheme would be backed by private investment as well as government grant funding.

The announcement comes within a series of initiatives by both the county and city councils to slash Oxford’s emissions including low traffic neighbourhoods, e-scooter rental, the Connecting Oxford traffic reduction plan and the Zero Emission Zone pilot set for launch later this year.

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