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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Oxford’s electric bus plan may be scuppered by costs

Oxford has bid to become Britain’s first all-electric bus city. However, the plan may be scuppered by costs, says the Council.

In February, Oxford City Council announced its intent to apply for funding to upgrade or replace all the buses run by Stagecoach and the Oxford Bus Company. The Council agreed to submit their bid, called an “Expression of Interest”, at a virtual cabinet meeting on 26 May.

The Department of Transport (DfT) funding would make the city the first to have all buses powered by electricity.

However, in a statement read by the Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Yvonne Constance, it was revealed that the combined bid for the two operators would exceed the £50 million offered by the government.

Business modelling showed a shortfall of £6.3 million that would influence “the potential success of the bid” if unable to be resolved.

The statement continued: “Officers are working closely with the bus operators to address this as quickly as possible, although it may be after the deadline for the submission of the Expression of Interest on June 4.

“While we believe there may be a positive solution in time for submission […] should affordability become an issue as the business case develops requiring us to withdraw the Expression of Interest then the 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.”

An expression of interest for the bid is expected to be submitted at the beginning of June.

The Council also agreed to bid for £20 million from the DfT to support on-demand bus services in rural and suburban areas. Both funds are part of the government’s £220 million package ‘Better Deal for Bus Users’.

The bid comes despite the termination of the on-demand Pick Me Up bus service in June. Ms Constance said that “the Pick Me Up service has caught two blows”, referring to the combined effect of congestion in central Oxford and the impact of the coronavirus on passenger numbers.

Image credit to Arriva436/ Wikimedia Commons.

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