First ZEBRA funded project to be delivered in the UK

Posted: 14 October 2022 | | No comments yet

Leicester’s new Orbital service is the UK’s longest electric circular bus route and has been designed to make public transport more accessible and convenient for residents and visitors across the city.

First ZEBRA funded project to be delivered in UK

Credit: Leicester City Council

Leicester City Council has announced that a new Orbital electric bus service has been launched, connecting estates and suburbs on the city’s outer ring road and beyond with locations such as shopping centres, hospitals, employment areas and other key transport infrastructure.

Partially funded by the Department for Transport’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme, the electric buses and new charging depot at the firm’s Thurmaston depot combine to make the first ZEBRA funded project to be delivered in the UK.

Replacing the 40 Circleline service, the new service will come into operation on 24 October 2022. It is the latest addition to the city’s Greenlines electric network, and is the fifth new service to be launched using the new council-owned electric buses. Furthermore, these services will be complemented by a free electric city centre circular service in early 2023.

The 30-mile route will operate from Leicester General Hospital, and will run in an clockwise and anti-clockwise direction serving Evington, Oadby, Wigston, Eyres Monsell, Aylestone, Fosse Park, Meridian, Thorpe Astley, Braunstone Frith, Glenfield, Glenfield Hospital, Beaumont Leys, Mowmacre Hill, Belgrave, Rushey Mead, Hamilton, Netherhall, Thurnby Lodge and Goodwood, before returning to Leicester General Hospital.

Leicester Deputy City Mayor for Transport, Clean Air and Climate Emergency, Councillor Adam Clarke, said: “The Orbital route is a very well-used service, and switching over to the latest electric vehicles means another significant part of the city’s public transport system will now benefit from cleaner, more modern buses. Launching the Leicester Buses Partnership back in April (2022) has meant we’ve been able to work very closely with the city’s bus operators to bring forward projects like this to make top-notch public transport accessible to more people while being committed to tackle emissions and the climate emergency.”

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David Brookes, Director of Centrebus, said: “Together with the upgraded bus stop infrastructure and additional real-time information displays across the city, these buses will not only improve air quality but will encourage people to leave their cars at home and use public transport.”

This is the first phase of the council’s plans to radically improve on the previous diesel Circleline service over the next two years, subject to funding available. The first phase includes six new fully electric buses together with on-board displays, real-time information and contactless ‘best fare’ ticketing.  

Leicester City Council has invested £2.11 million in this project, with the aim of removing a predicted 177 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year and reducing operational costs by over £60,000 annually. There is also over £10 million of planned bus priority works in future phases, which will be subject to funding bids to  the UK government, supporting the city’s vision for a tram-style bus network serving the whole city.

If successful in securing the funding, by the end of the four phases the route will involve 20 electric buses in total, running every 15 minutes around the city, allowing better connections, improved reliability and further integration with other cross-city services.