Rock Road enters zero-emission bus sector with Wrightbus Electroliners for Abellio

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Finance provider Rock Road has reached agreemet on the financing of 30 Wrightbus Electroliners to be operated by Abellio London from its Twickenham depot. The project represents its first such financing of zero-emission buses in the UK in a consortium led by Rock Road Holdings Ltd and the Mayoral Energy Efficiency Fund (MEEF), and managed by Amber Infrastructure, with senior debt provided by the Greater London Authority and NatWest. Joanne Patrick, Head of Sustainable Energy at Amber Infrastructure, commented: “we are delighted to work together with Rock Road to support this innovative approach to financing zero-emission buses in London. We hope that this project will act as a catalyst to support Rock and London bus operators to decarbonise their fleets and improve air quality throughout the Capital”.

Rock Road’s approach offers a ‘light-touch’ financing model that it says allows operators to run their daily service with minimal interruption, as well as taking residual value risk beyond the initial lease. Rock also has a bespoke battery strategy that takes on the cost risk of replacement, allowing its fleet to adapt to and benefit from advances in battery technology and allowing it to provide the operator with the opportunity to generate upside from the repurposing of the replaced batteries.

Rock Road says it aims to use this project as a launchpad to roll out its funding solution and help accelerate the procurement of more zero-emission buses in London, and that it remains very interested in working with operators outside London to provide its unique funding solution for orders submitted through the Government’s ZEBRA scheme as well as to lend financial support as unsubsidised procurements continue to grow. The financier says it will also continue to keep close track of franchising as it becomes more widely adopted around the UK and aim to support local authorities and operators in accelerating the UK’s transition to a nationwide zero-emission bus system.

Mark Swindell, Rock Rail & Road CEO, commented: “Back at COP26, Rock made the decision to widen its scope into a new sector to accelerate the decarbonisation of public transport and to further support the UK to reach its Net Zero targets. We set out to provide operators with a new type of funding for zero-emission buses that reduces the impact on balance sheet, allows operators to retain full control over their fleet and absorbs two key risks, namely residual value and battery replacement.”

Shirley Rodrigues, London Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy said: “Electrifying London’s bus fleet is an important step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling the devastating effects of toxic air pollution on public health. Our ambitious target for London to reach net-zero by 2030 requires investment to rapidly decarbonise our homes, offices, energy systems and transport. This investment from MEEF shows the vital role public sector funds can play in unlocking the private sector investment needed to accelerate our net zero efforts and help Londoners breathe cleaner air as we build a greener and better London for everyone.”

Alastair Willis, Head of Commercial at Abellio, said: “Abellio London is proud to support TfL’s vision to decarbonise London and create cleaner and greener streets for all Londoners. By introducing these new state-of-the-art Wrightbus Electroliners with the enhanced features inside the bus,
we will provide safe, comfortable and sustainable journeys for even more Londoners. Funding from Rock Road supports us as an operator to lead the way on electric bus technology in London.”