Coventry is set to become one of the UK’s only two all-electric bus cities as part of a Department for Transport (DfT) pilot to test the impact on air pollution.
The ground breaking project, which is designed to improve air quality, significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions and, with cheaper electricity, reduce the costs of running buses will see up to £50 million invested to put an all-electric bus fleet on the streets of Coventry by 2025.
It is also hoped the huge investment in newer, cleaner vehicles, with features such as fare-capping and on board wifi, will persuade more people to switch to public transport for their commute – further cutting traffic congestion and pollution from private cars.
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), led the bid with support from Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council.
As well as funding for new vehicles the grant will also cover investment in wider infrastructure such as charging points and upgrades to the electric grid.
The £50m will be supported by a further £75m of investment from local bus operators into the new electric buses.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “This news is brilliant for Coventry and the West Midlands, and I am delighted the Secretary of State and his department have once again put their faith in our region to deliver.
“Turning all of Coventry’s bus fleet electric is not only a major boost to public transport in the city, but it will also help tackle the climate emergency we face both here in the West Midlands and the wider UK.
“This will accelerate our plans for a zero-emission bus fleet and, coming hot on the heels of the refurbishment of Pool Meadow bus station, is even more good news for bus users in Coventry.”
Coventry and Oxford were selected from 19 towns and cities who applied to be the UK’s first all-electric bus cities – having shown how the scheme could help solve poor air quality.
The Government, TfWM and local partners will now work to finalise the project details and business case.
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has set a target - #WM2041 - for the West Midlands to be carbon neutral by 2041 and an all-electric city status is another step towards that target.
Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration at Coventry City Council, said: “This is excellent news. In the summer I joined the Council Leader George Duggins to see close up some of the first electric buses. They look fantastic, and with no emissions they are much better for the environment”
“We already have excellent partnership working with bus companies like National Express Coventry and together we have been striving to make our public transport network better, greener and cleaner.
“The Council’s local air quality plan is all about embracing new technologies and making improvements that have a long-lasting impact on those that live and work here, and visit the city. That’s exactly what an all-electric bus fleet will help deliver.”
Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council said: “Buses used to be a key source of poor air quality in our city centres so we have, working closely with bus operators, already invested in cleaner vehicles and dramatically reduced emissions. Now with the all-electric city status we are taking the next steps towards a zero-emission bus fleet."
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added: “This Government is committed to building back better from Covid-19, providing people with more environmentally-friendly transport and cleaner air.
“Coventry and Oxford are at the forefront of our plans for a new era of bus services, helping us develop the green transport network of the future right here in the UK.”
Those bidding to become all-electric bus cities were required to demonstrate buy in 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.
The All Electric Bus Towns and Cities fund is part of a wider package of measures to improve services and make bus journeys greener, easier and more reliable.
In February 2020 the Government announced £5 billion for a new golden era for buses and active travel. The UK's first-ever long-term bus strategy will be launched in the coming months to ensure buses are prioritised into the future.