Oxford’s bid to become the first fully electric bus city could be in doubt

News stories are free to read. Click here for full access to all the features, articles and archive from only £8.99.

Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council are due to make a bid for the £50m offered by the Department of Transport (DfT) to convert a selected town or city’s buses to electric, but the council has reported that the bus companies have estimated the cost of replacing their fleets would require more than the amount offered by the DfT.

A successful bid by the council’s would help convert Go-Ahead Group-owned Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach in Oxfordshire fleets to electric. Arriva serving the Shires is also involved in the partnership as service 280 provides a frequent link between Aylesbury, Thame and Oxford.

Oxford Bus Company MD Phil Southall is seen with the BYD ADL Enviro200EV demonstrator last summer during suitability trials. OXFORD BUS COMPANY

The Oxford Mail reports that a statement read out by council leader Ian Hudspeth in a cabinet meeting this week said: “While we believe there may be a positive solution in time for submission of the expression of interest to be made on June 4. Should affordability become an issue as the business case develops requiring us to withdraw the expression of interest then cabinet will receive a further report at that time.

“For now, however, we remain hopeful of a positive resolution and are working hard alongside the operators to that end.”

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 DfT’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 funding bid comes at a time when both OCC and Oxford City Council have radical plans to introduce a  Zero Emissions Zone (ZEZ) within the city, although the proposed roll-out of the phased introduction of the ZEZ has now been postponed for six months until summer 2021, due to the impact of the pandemic.

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 VI standard and an additional five buses to electric to help reduce air pollution.