Oxford’s first electric open-top double decker bus has arrived

Published: Monday, 9th March 2020

The first electric open-top double decker bus has arrived in Oxford – assisting in the reduction of toxic air pollution in the city ahead of the Oxford Zero Emission Zone.

The bus is the first of five open-top City Sightseeing Oxford buses, owned by the Oxford Bus Company, that are being retrofitted to electric.

City Sightseeing Oxford buses operate one hour guided hop-on, hop-off open-top tours of the city and take in Oxford’s best tourist attractions. Each bus is fitted with multi-lingual recorded commentaries in 13 different languages.

The funding for the buses was provided to Oxford City Council from the Government’s Clean Bus Technology Fund. In February 2018, Oxford City Council was awarded £1.7m to retrofit 78 buses to the ultra-low emission Euro 6 standard, and to convert five open-top double decker buses to electric.

In March 2019, Oxford City Council secured a further £700,000 to upgrade an additional 37 city buses to Euro 6 standard to help reduce toxic air pollution, bringing the total government funding to improve Oxford’s buses to £2.3m, with a total of 115 buses being upgraded. Oxford Bus Company has so far completed 65 of its 71 vehicle upgrades under this programme.

To support the programme, Oxford Bus Company has made an investment of £350,000, including an investment of £80,000 to install the charging equipment for the double decker sightseeing buses, including an innovative battery storage system to harness the energy produced by their solar panels. The bus upgrades forms part of the Oxford Bus Company’s strategy to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

Over the past two years, Oxford Bus Company has conducted several trials of single decker electric buses on its services, the most recent of these being –a BYD single decker electric bus which was used on Park & Ride service 500 and to provide a special Park & Ride service to the Oxford EV Summit.

In the 1990s, four electric Optare MetroRider minibuses were trialled in Oxford.

The Oxford Zero Emission Zone

Transport accounts for about 75% of nitrogen dioxide pollution in Oxford, and 50 tonnes of CO2 are emitted by road traffic in Oxford every morning rush hour.

Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council have recently launched the formal consultation on the final Red Zone for the UK’s first city centre zero emission zone - the Oxford Zero Emission Zone - which could begin in December 2020.

The formal consultation on the Red Zone is open to all until midnight, Wednesday 15 April 2020

The councils are working with bus companies operating in Oxford to move towards zero emission by 2035 at the latest, but are working to achieve this by 2030 if possible.

Earlier this month, 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 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.

Go-Ahead Group, which owns Oxford Bus Company also announced plans last month to deploy single-decker Air Filtering Buses in cities across the UK, including Oxford. Each bus is fitted with an air filtering system made up of three fans on the roof that suck ultra-fine particles and dirt into special filters. 

Over the past decade, air pollution levels in Oxford have decreased by 36.8% due to the City Council and County Council’s work to tackle the issue. However, the latest data from the Oxford City Council’s 72 air pollution monitoring locations has shown that levels of toxic NO2 fell by an average of 0.23% between 2017 and 2018 –a starkly slower rate in comparison to the 22.7% decrease between 2016 and 2017.

The Zero Emission Zone aims to reduce Oxford’s toxic air pollution levels, tackle the climate emergency, and improve the health of those living, working, and visiting in Oxford and beyond.

It is estimated that it will also improve air pollution levels across Oxfordshire because the buses and taxis that serve Oxford also serve towns and villages across the county.

“I am thrilled that Oxford’s first electric open-top double decker bus has arrived in Oxford. 2020 is the year that we will see the start of the Oxford Zero Emission Zone - the UK’s first city centre Zero Emission Zone. I am delighted by working together with Oxford Bus Company; we are able to introduce a more sustainable bus fleet to Oxford. Cleaner buses mean that we will have cleaner air and improved health for everyone living, working, and commuting in the city. I am looking forward to seeing more electric buses on the roads of Oxford in the future.”

Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford

“This is an exciting landmark day in Oxford’s journey towards improving air quality in the city via the introduction of more sustainable modes of transport. We’re proud to deliver the first electric double decker bus in the city in partnership with Oxford City Council. We have always been committed to being at the forefront of the industry on environmental technology innovation and over half of our buses are powered by hybrid technology”

Phil Southall, City Sightseeing Oxford and Oxford Bus Company Managing Director

“The delivery of this new electric bus 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. The expansion of electric bus provision for tourists and residents 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 Environment