By Connor Steel
ELECTRIC buses will be seen across Gosport, Fareham and Portsmouth areas as a new fleet comes into use by the end of next year; following an announcement earlier this week that First Bus has placed one of the UK’s largest Electric Vehicle (EV) bus orders with manufacturer Wrightbus of thirty-four new vehicles.
The order follows successful talks by First Bus in partnership with staff from Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth Council departments, which was then proceeded by bids made to the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) funding scheme which were accepted late last month.
£81 million has already been invested in the ZEBRA scheme since its creation and 193 vehicles are set to be released across the country in the next eighteen moments. This has been broken down into two with £43 million committed by First Bus with DfT contributing grant funding of the other £38 million for the completion.
The new order has been described as the largest from outside London with the new EV buses set to be built in Northern Ireland, within the Wrightbus facility in Ballymena. This follows a successful rollout of the world’s first double-decker Hydrogen buses in Aberdeen in 2020 also built by Wrightbus, and is reported to be a very significant boost to the country’s economy alongside the UK manufacturing sector for the long term future.
Councillor Edward Heron, the Executive Lead Member for Environment & Transport Strategy at Hampshire County Council, said in a press release: “This really is welcome news and I’m pleased the County Council has been an active player in this significant development which supports our Climate Change target. We are committed to building on the good relationships we have with bus operators to improve (transport) services in Hampshire and drive up passenger numbers, as demonstrated by our Bus Service Improvement Plan.”
Councillor Lynne Stagg, Cabinet Member for Traffic & Transportation at Portsmouth City Council, said: “The ordering of 34 zero emission buses is a key milestone as we race forward with our plans to transform bus travel, to make it cleaner, greener and better connected. This will be an exciting next step for Portsmouth.”
Marc Reddy, Managing Director, First Bus Hampshire, Dorset & Berkshire said: “We are very excited to be able to bring 34 zero emission vehicles to Portsmouth, Fareham & Gosport. We wholeheartedly endorse the city council’s work on cleaner air and its pledge to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030. One of our main goals is to make the bus part of the solution when it comes to improving air quality in the city and EV buses do exactly that. These state-of-the-art buses will be environmentally friendly and improve air quality.”
The new buses will feature a variety of single and double decker vehicles, working alongside those already operating such as the fleet used for Ellipse services in Gosport and Fareham over recent months. They are expected to be charged in the bus depot near Fareham Reach although this detail has not been confirmed.
First Bus are also working with four other local authorities alongside Portsmouth City Council and Hampshire County Council, which have been named as Leicester, Norfolk, West Yorkshire and York); with funding and support needed to bridge gaps in costs between Euro VI diesel buses in comparisons to the EV equivalents.
It is believed that each regional project will be completed over the course of the next two years, meaning that First Bus will have over 500 EV buses in operation. This has been reported as a huge leap forward towards the national and popular bus operator’s ambitious pledge of an entirely zero emission fleet by the year 2035.
PICTURED BY PIXABAY: 34 EV buses will be in place across Gosport and Fareham by the end of next year.