Oxford launches major all-electric city bus fleet

6 months ago Tue 16th Jan 2024

Oxford last night (Mon) launched what will be one of the biggest UK fleet of electric buses outside London.

The £82.5M project will deliver 159 new battery buses onto the streets of Oxford – the first of which have already gone into service. It has also funded two associated electric charging hubs at the city’s bus depots.

It has been funded via a collaboration between Oxfordshire County Council and bus operators Oxford Bus Company, owned by The Go-Ahead Group and Stagecoach. The Council was awarded £32.8M from the government’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme and contributed £6M directly, while bus operators invested £43.7M.

The groundbreaking infrastructure project is a huge boost to Oxford’s vision to creating a more sustainable, decarbonized public transport system and improving air quality.

Oxford Bus Company will deliver 104 electric buses into service and Stagecoach 55. Working with Zenobē, the UK’s leading fleet electrification specialist, Oxford Bus Company has installed 104 charging points at its Cowley House depot, with Stagecoach also installing 55 chargers at the the Network Oxford site. The charging hubs are powered by EDF Energy’s Oxford Superhub network, providing enough electricity to charge all 159 buses, enough for each bus to drive up to 200 miles per day.

To celebrate the historic development key stakeholders gathered for a launch event at Divinity School in Oxford city centre on Monday night where some of the new electric buses were showcased and key representatives delivered speeches.

Luke Marion, Oxford Bus Company Managing Director, said: “This is a historic moment in our journey towards transforming our city services to electric. Our first tranche of electric buses is now in service and are already starting to improve air quality and make bus travel an even more attractive option for people to travel around Oxford.

“Decarbonising buses is an exciting project – and we have demonstrated that with the right strategic partnership working between the public and private sector, we can unlock investment to make it happen. We look forward to working with Oxfordshire County Council on important initiatives going forward to encourage people to travel by bus.”

Matt Carney, CEO of The Go-Ahead Group’s bus division, said: “Go-Ahead is proud to be the largest operator of zero emission buses in Britain. Electric buses make an enormous difference to air quality in cities and by decarbonising our fleet in towns and cities across the country, we aim to make a positive contribution to the fight against climate change.

“These new buses in Oxford will form Go-Ahead’s biggest fleet of zero emission buses outside London. The project is an example of bus operators working closely with local authorities to deliver for communities.”

Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director, Stagecoach West says: “Today is a momentous day for Stagecoach West and for the city of Oxford, marking the beginning of an exciting new chapter in sustainable bus travel.  As a business we are fully committed to operating a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035 so the introduction of these electric vehicles onto the roads today is a big step towards this vital goal.

“We must all play our part in improving air quality and reducing C02 emissions in all areas of business and industry across the UK.  I hope the introduction of these new electric vehicles will entice new passengers to bus travel and those already travelling with us can rest assured they’re already making a great choice.”

Paul Davies, Alexander Dennis President & Managing Director, said: “We are delighted to support Stagecoach and Oxfordshire County Council as they introduce a cleaner and greener bus fleet for Oxford with our next-generation Enviro400EV, improving the lives of passengers and residents as well as accelerating decarbonisation.

"These new buses introduce latest advances in technology including a highly efficient driveline and a future-proof battery system, while guaranteeing first-class aftermarket support throughout the vehicle’s life with AD24.

"This investment keeps funding from the Government’s ZEBRA scheme in the country, supporting skilled jobs and apprenticeships in our facilities and across our extensive domestic supply chain.”

Roads Minister Guy Opperman said: “Zero emission buses are vital for cleaner local travel, with 159 new UK-built electric buses coming to Oxford thanks to Government funding – supporting skilled UK manufacturing jobs.

“This project is supported by over £32m in Government support, as part of £330m already provided since 2020 for zero emission buses in England, outside of London, to make strides towards an all zero-emission bus fleet."

Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport Management, said: “I'm proud and thrilled that the county council is backing its ambitions with political and financial capital, alongside our partners, to deliver a safer, cleaner, greener, better county for residents and visitors.

“Together with policies such as traffic filters to hugely increase bus efficiency, we are delivering on our vision of a better future. This is an exciting and important moment for us all."

Jean-Marc Gales, CEO of Wrightbus, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting Oxford Bus Company in the drive to transform transport in the city and help build a more sustainable future.

“We’re proud to say our StreetDeck Electroliner BEV is the world’s most efficient double deck battery-electric bus and we have taken that technology into the development of our single deck, which has also been classed as the most efficient on the UK’s roads.

“We’ve created the most efficient vehicles by combining optimum power with a class-leading rapid charge, meaning our electric buses spend more time on the road than any other. We’re confident passengers in Oxford will enjoy the experience.”

Marianne Costigan, Head of Private Wire at EDF Renewables said: “As we see the inauguration of one of the largest electric bus fleets in the UK, EDF Renewables is proud to be a key enabler of this ground-breaking initiative.

“Our Energy Superhub Oxford network already serves EV drivers in the local area at Redbridge Park & Ride charging locations. We are delighted to now be delivering the necessary energy infrastructure to support Go-Ahead, Stagecoach and their passengers as they supercharge Oxford towards its decarbonisation goals and improve air quality.”

Bradley Fox, Director of EV Fleet for Zenobē, said: “We have worked in close partnership with both Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach to design and deliver the charging infrastructure across both sites, in a way that works for their operations and helps them achieve their decarbonisation goals. We are confident other cities across the UK will look to Cowley Depot and Network Oxford as examples of how, with the right investment and partners, bus fleet electrification can be achieved at speed and scale.”

Councillor Anna Railton, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford and Climate Justice, Oxford City Council, said: "I am delighted that the first tranche of ZEBRA electric buses has now arrived in Oxford and are serving Oxford's communities. Electric buses not only help to clean up Oxford's air but they are a crucial mode of transport in our city - especially for those who do not have access to cars. I am looking forward to seeing these buses on our roads." 

Oxfordshire was one of only 12 local authorities to successfully apply for ZEBRA funding.  The Oxford Bus Company vehicles have been manufactured by Wright Bus in Northern Ireland, with the Stagecoach vehicles manufactured by Alexander Dennis in Scotland. Oxfordshire County Council has committed to help reduce bus journey times by at least 10 per cent in the city to ensure the investment is viable for bus operators.