Zenobē expands collaboration with McGill’s

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Electric vehicle fleet and battery storage specialist Zenobē is extending its working relationship with McGill’s to bring more electric bus services to west central Scotland. The continued collaboration will see the electrification of McGill’s depot in Greenock, which is expected to be ready the first quarter of 2023, and the expansion of the electric depots at Inchinnan and Johnstone, facilitating the operation of 41 new electric buses and bringing the total number of electric buses in the McGill’s fleet to 109.

The move follows the awarding of funding from the Scottish Zero Emission Bus Challenge Fund (ScotZEB) for new electric buses and the infrastructure to support them. Zenobē will fund the batteries on the 41 Yutong vehicles and build the new infrastructure, as well as implementing its end-to-end software solution to manage the fleet charging and power requirements. Zenobē and McGill’s initially worked together to electrify depots at Johnstone, Inchinnan and Dundee to facilitate the launch of 68 electric buses.

Steven Meersman, Co-founder and Director of Zenobē, said: “We’re proud to play a part in driving Scotland towards its ambitious net zero goals, with this project forming part of the circa £690 million we intend to invest in the country in the next five years. I am also very excited to expand our collaboration with McGill’s after our significant work together ahead of COP26 in Glasgow last year, which is already successfully delivering cleaner journeys.”

Ralph Roberts, CEO of McGill’s, added: “We are delighted to be extending our work with Zenobē. We are committed to offering our customers clean journeys to help improve air quality and protect the environment and are proud to be announcing another important milestone in decarbonising our industry. In the last 12 months, McGill’s has delivered 7.5 million passenger journeys on zero-emission buses over 3 million vehicle miles. In conjunction with Scotland’s clean grid, this is game changing for our planet.”

Scotland East investment

Following the take-over of the former First Bus-owned Scotland East operation, McGill’s owners Sandy and James Easdale say they plan significant investment in the new Midland Bluebird and Eastern Scottish operations. The new owners said that local management will be empowered to make decisions about local services serving local people, and that the company is looking to invest in the months and years to come to provide a better service for customers.

The company added that it will work to rejuvenate every area of the business in the coming months and years. Chairman of McGill’s Group James Easdale said: “The Scotland East business and Bright Bus tours are now part of McGill’s and we are delighted to welcome our new colleagues to the group. As witnessed following our recent deal for Xplore Dundee and in our partnership with FlixBus, we are determined to invest operationally to ensure our customers receive a service they value and can enjoy using.

“We believe in empowering local teams to deliver for their local communities rather than a centralised, top-down approach – we want passengers to have an affinity with their local buses and one step in that process is the introduction of iconic liveries for the fleet.”

CEO Ralph Roberts commented: “There is scope to rejuvenate the Scotland East businesses to ensure we can combine the advantages of the McGill’s Group with effective, local management that will benefit passengers. In the period to come we will be examining every area of the business to revitalise our offering such as customer interaction, staff development and training, vehicle quality and local decision-making.

“One of our key priorities will be to invest in the fleet and bring down the average age of buses on the road – that will be to the benefit of passengers, staff and the environment.

New identities have already been unveiled for the two new businesses. Asked to comment on the apparent similarity of the new identities to neighbouring Lothian’s liveries and potential for passenger confusion, a spokesperson for McGill’s told CBW: “We are delighted with the newly designed liveries reflecting the much-loved bus liveries of the former Midland Bluebird and Eastern Scottish companies.”

41 further new Yutongs are on order from Pelican Bus & Coach. RICHARD SHARMAN