Oxford applies for funding to become Britain’s first all-electric bus town

Published: Friday, 7th February 2020

Bus users in Oxford could be the first in the country to be using a fleet of electric buses

A partnership of Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council, Stagecoach, the Oxford Bus Company and Arriva announced it is submitting a funding bid to be Britain’s first all-electric bus city.

The development comes after the Department for Transport announced that applications for local authorities to become the first all-electric bus town have now opened. The winning town will receive up to £50 million to help pay for a brand-new fleet of electric buses, which aims to reduce emissions in the community.

The All-Electric Bus Town proposal will aim to act as a pilot to understand what can be achieved when there is a real commitment to move all buses in a place to electric propulsion. It will also aim to better understand the challenges of running a wholly electric bus fleet including running cost data. The information learned will help to support bus manufacturers in the development of zero emission buses in the future.

The £50 million government fund is part of a total £170 million allocated to improve services and make bus journeys greener, easier and more reliable. This commitment is said to mark the next step in delivering the Department for Transport’s £220 million package to overhaul bus services across England. The funding also comes within the framework of a new national bus strategy.

The councils will also be applying for a £20 million fund from the £170 million to encourage the development and trial of on-demand ride sharing services in rural and suburban areas, helping people to plan their journeys down to the minute. The fund will boost traditional services by helping people use bus travel to get closer to where they live, at a time that is convenient for them.

The All-Electric Bus Town fund will take the form of a two-stage competition. Submissions for the first phase opened on 6th February and closes at the end of April. The government will then draw up a shortlist of applicants that will be considered in Phase 2 which will conclude in Autumn 2020.

The funding bid comes at a time when both councils have announced radical plans to introduce a Zero Emissions Zone within the city as well as expanding bus services across the eastern side of Oxford with the Connecting Oxford plan. The support offered by this bid would be a significant boost to helping reduce emissions across the city from public transport.

In the past two years, Oxford City Council has also secured £2.3 million of funding to upgrade the city’s buses and reduce toxic air pollution from the Government’s Clean Bus Technology Fund. The funding will assist in the upgrade of 115 of the city’s buses to Euro 6 standard and an additional five buses to electric to help reduce air pollution.

“Oxford has successfully brought in significant investment to speed up our journey to zero. I am looking forward to working with the County Council and bus companies on this bid to help clean up our air and protect people’s health.

“In Oxford we have seen a drop in harmful nitrogen dioxide levels by an average of 22.7% because of the introduction of ultra-low emission buses. We need to go further and faster and Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone will be the city’s next step to achieve further drops. With Oxford launching the UK’s first city centre Zero Emission Zone in December this year, this funding is crucial to see more electric buses on our roads.”

Councillor Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford

“The funding bid comes at a time when our councils are determined to take concerted climate action to cut vehicle air pollution and expand the provision of bus services with our Connecting Oxford plan. Funding to support the launch of electric buses in Oxford is a clear sign of our commitment to offer our residents a clean and environmentally sustainable future.”

Councillor Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet Member for the Environment

“We welcome this positive commitment from government as stronger bus networks are key to reducing congestion and emissions. We look forward to examining this opportunity with our local authorities and establishing whether we can unlock vital funding to support the vision for a cleaner Oxford via electric technology. Key is building a compelling business case for funding will be all stakeholders committing to improving journey times and growing patronage together.”

Phil Southall Oxford Bus Company Managing Director

“Buses have a key role to play in boosting the region’s air quality, as well as addressing damaging congestion, growing our economy and bringing communities together.  This is therefore an important opportunity for the key stakeholders in Oxford to work collaboratively to secure this funding”

Chris Coleman, Managing Director of Stagecoach Oxfordshire