Green light for Coventry to become UK’s first £50m All Electric Bus City

19 March 2021 12:25 PM

Pollution-busting plans for Coventry to become the UK’s first all-electric bus city have been backed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) leaders today.

Under the ground-breaking project, every bus in Coventry will be electric powered by 2025, leading to improved air quality, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and lower running costs.

Approval from the WMCA Board means that £50 million Department for Transport (DfT) funding will now be handed to the region to deliver the project.

Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the WMCA, will work with bus operators to replace buses and install charging infrastructure on the streets of Coventry. This includes pantograph, or overhead, charging points which will be available to all bus operators.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, who chairs the WMCA, said: “It took a lot of lobbying and persuading, but I am delighted we won the Government’s national competition to turn Coventry’s bus fleet all electric.

“It was great to welcome the Prime Minister to Coventry this week to talk about our all-electric plans, and crucially today’s confirmation by the WMCA board now unlocks his Government’s £50 million investment, meaning we can get on with rolling out the clean, green, electric buses onto the city’s roads.

“Not only will the clean bus fleet improve the public transport offering in Coventry, but it is also another step towards tackling the climate emergency and helping to attract people to leave their cars at home in favour of taking the bus.

“This is a great time for bus users in Coventry, with our newly refurbished Pool Meadow bus station, the trial of West Midlands On Demand buses serving the University of Warwick campus, as well our wider investment in fare-capping and better value fares, bus priority measures, real-time travel information and onboard facilities like wi-fi and USB charging.

“It is a bus revolution here in the West Midlands, and Coventry is right at the heart of it.”

Transport Minister, Baroness Vere, said: “Our £50m investment will see Coventry’s entire fleet of buses replaced with new, all-electric vehicles. This will have a profoundly positive effect on air quality and emissions in the area and reduce noise pollution. 

“This Government is committed to decarbonising the transport network across the UK, as we build back greener and strive to achieve net zero by 2050.”

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration at Coventry City Council, said: “We have finally got this over the line after we were able to convince the government that this city is the ideal location and this will make a major dent in addressing air pollution.

“We already have a range of schemes to improve air quality and this will help exceed our targets.

“We have great working relations with bus companies in the city and these are exciting times for all of us. The hard work starts now.”

David Bradford, Managing Director of National Express Coventry, said: “As part of the West Midlands Bus Alliance we work very closely with Transport for West Midlands and local councils to deliver reliable, affordable and green transport in the communities we serve. So we are delighted that Coventry will become one of the UK’s first all-electric bus cities.

“The easiest and the cheapest way we can clean up our air and fight climate change is to hop on a bus. We already have a comprehensive network of bus services across Coventry and we froze fares again this year, ensuring bus travel continues to be affordable and accessible for all.

“We all have a part to play in making cleaner, greener choices, so it’s worth remembering that a double decker bus can take up to 75 cars off the road. By choosing public transport we can reduce the level of traffic on our roads, which in turn makes journeys quicker, and the air cleaner for everybody’s lungs.

“Early last year National Express proudly announced our ambition to have a fully zero-emission bus fleet by 2030, followed by the launch of 29 fully electric buses in the West Midlands - 10 of which are in Coventry​ and were shown to the Prime Minister during his visit earlier this week​.

“We’re looking forward to bringing hundreds more ​electric buses to the city of Coventry, which will complement other measures being delivered through the Bus Alliance to drive even more improvements for new and existing bus customers.”

TfWM will lead the project in partnership with Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and local bus operators – who are together paying 25% of the added costs of electric vehicles over diesel and charging infrastructure. 

This is a major project for bus operators across Coventry, and attracts significant investment from them to replace every bus in their fleet within five years. Operators, including National Express Coventry, which launched 10 electric buses in service last summer, and Stagecoach, will also ensure the new buses offer customers the best in onboard comfort and technology, as well as being good for the environment. 

The clean air benefits will be felt beyond the city boundary as many services which start or finish in Coventry serve Warwickshire, Solihull, Birmingham, Rugby and Leicester. This will support the #WM2041 target for the region to be net-zero carbon within two decades. 

Coventry was selected to be the UK’s first All Electric Bus City following a successful bid to the DfT. Applicants were required to demonstrate support from stakeholders in their local areas, outline existing plans to reduce greenhouse gases and improve air quality, and show how the plan would tackle an existing air quality problem.

This year TfWM is already on target for buses to be EuroVI compliant low emission vehicles – but this plan sets the region well on the road towards a zero-emission bus fleet.

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