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  • Writer's pictureNikki Latham

Boost for buses as Government takes more steps to support and decarbonise sector

The Roads Minister, Richard Holden, has announced a new initiative to strengthen the bus sector. The Bus Centre of Excellence, supported by £815,000 in Government funding, will bring together local government, bus operators, and industry experts to enhance skills and diversity in the industry. The aim is to train and recruit a new generation of bus professionals to improve reliability, affordability, and cleanliness of bus services.

The Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation will host the centre, providing training, resources, and networking events. This announcement coincides with the Government's allocation of £3 million for 18 zero-emission buses in Leicester, manufactured by Wrightbus and operated by First Bus. This investment will replace all diesel buses at First Bus's Leicester depot with 86 electric buses, making it one of the first fully electric bus depots in the UK. Overall, Leicester has received nearly £22 million in funding from the Zero Emission Buses Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme to support 114 electric buses.

Roads Minister Richard Holden said: “Buses are the backbone of our transport network, providing affordable travel for commuters, families, and pensioners, and providing an economic lifeline for towns and cities around the country.
“This multimillion investment for Leicester’s clean transformation, coupled with the new Bus Centre of Excellence, will help drive the country’s bus sector recovery and provide passengers with cleaner, more affordable buses that run on time.”

Zero-emission buses are cost-effective and dependable, benefiting bus operators. The latest ZEBs in Leicester expand on the successful ZEBRA scheme, which provides funding for zero emission buses and infrastructure. This brings the total Government funding to nearly £300 million, supporting up to 1,400 zero emission buses in England and advancing the goal of a net zero transport network.

Neil Johnstone, President, Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, said: “CIHT has a proven track record of delivering high quality continuing professional development for those working in the transportation sector. We are delighted to be the chosen partner to help work on improving this important sustainable transport mode.”
“This partnership (alongside other government initiatives) will see CIHT help to bring together a wide range of professional skills and knowledge from both the public and private sector to facilitate change to local infrastructure, service delivery and the sector across the country – with the ultimate aim of improving bus services.”
Janette Bell, Managing Director at First Bus, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that Leicester will become one of our blueprint bus depots of the future, helping us to refine and iterate this new concept so we can roll it out across the rest of the UK. At First Bus, we’re continuing to trailblaze with our partners to ensure we meet our net zero targets, supported by co-funding from the Department for Transport.
“As leaders in sustainable mobility, we are fully aligned with the Government’s ambitions for a net zero carbon transport system. Through this co-funding with the ZEBRA scheme, we’re excited to electrify another 5 of our UK depots before March 2024, and look forward to introducing even more electric buses to our constantly growing fleet. “We cannot wait to see our customers’ reactions once the project is complete, as we know the difference this will make to the city. Electric really is the future and we’re glad we can take our customers on this journey with us.”

The Bus Centre of Excellence initiative builds upon the recent £155 million funding to support bus services nationwide and maintain affordable fares with the £2 cap. This brings the total Government investment in bus protection during the pandemic to over £2 billion, with an additional £1 billion dedicated to enhancing bus services through the Bus Service Improvement Plans.

This news story has been produced by Chesil Radio's News Team, for more information please visit:

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