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30 new electric buses for the Cambridge Park and Ride network launch at Imperial War Museum, Duxford

The introduction of 30 new electric buses, to be used on Cambridge’s Park and Ride network, was celebrated with a launch at Imperial War Museum, Duxford, today (Friday, May 12).

ZEBRA buses at IWM Duxford. Picture: Lauren Thomas
ZEBRA buses at IWM Duxford. Picture: Lauren Thomas

The new vehicles are part of the largest investment in Cambridge’s bus network in a decade and are designed to help tackle air pollution and encourage more people to travel by bus.

Residents will be able to travel on the zero-emission, double-decker buses as they are introduced into service from this Sunday (May 14) at the Madingley, Trumpington and Newmarket Park and Ride sites, from Sunday, June 4, at the Milton and Babraham Park and Ride sites, and from mid-June on the Citi 2 service.

At this point, the five Cambridge Park and Ride and Citi 2 services will be fully electrified and carbon-free, and Stagecoach’s Cambridge bus fleet will be 31 per cent electric.

The cake at the launch. Picture: Adrian Peel
The cake at the launch. Picture: Adrian Peel

Today’s launch is part of a programme to replace 30 vehicles a year across the Combined Authority area, with an ambition to convert the region’s entire bus fleet to zero emission vehicles by 2030.

Each vehicle, which has space for two wheelchairs instead of the standard one, costs close to £500,000 and has been funded by the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority, Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP), Stagecoach East and the Department for Transport following a successful bid to the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme.

Cllr Elisa Meschini, chair of the GCP’s executive board, said: “This is going to be a massive step-change for us to make bus journeys more attractive, more efficient and greener.

“For a very long time now – certainly for the last two years that I’ve been involved in this – we have been saying to people we need better buses, we need to provide for you so that you choose to use the bus.

“No region works without buses, and now this is actually us delivering a tiny bit of that huge provision that we need to make.”

ZEBRA buses at IWM Duxford. Picture: Lauren Thomas
ZEBRA buses at IWM Duxford. Picture: Lauren Thomas

The launch event saw invited guests from across the region come together at the Trumpington Park and Ride to take one of the new buses to Duxford, where they were welcomed at the main hangar where more of the buses were on display.

After short speeches by the mayor Dr Nik Johnson, Stagecoach regional director for the south Rupert Cox and Cllr Meschini, guests were free to view the accompanying exhibition, enjoy a bus tour by Volvo and given the opportunity to drive a mini bus on a specially-designed course. There was also a beautifully-made cake.

Darren Roe, managing director at Stagecoach East, said: “This is two years’ worth of work building up since we were successful in getting the funding from the Department for Transport.

“Ordering the vehicles, getting them online in terms of building – it’s not only the building of the buses now, there’s a huge piece of work that has to be done for the infrastructure in the depot, so the depot’s been like a building site for a year now while we put the power in.

“All that has been focused on this one target day when we can launch the fleet this weekend. So we’re really, really pleased about how it’s all come together.”

He continued: “We’ve got two electric vehicles already, this adds another 30 to that, so about a third of our fleet in Cambridge now is electric.

“There’s a big commitment from government and, more importantly, there’s a big commitment from Stagecoach and there’s a big commitment from our partners, in terms of Cambridge & Peterborough Combined Authority and the GCP, to try and move the bus route to total zero emission by 2030.”

Cutting the cake at IWM Duxford are, from left, Cllr Elisa Meschini, Darren Roe, managing director of Stagecoach East, and mayor Dr Nik Johnson. Picture: Lauren Thomas
Cutting the cake at IWM Duxford are, from left, Cllr Elisa Meschini, Darren Roe, managing director of Stagecoach East, and mayor Dr Nik Johnson. Picture: Lauren Thomas

The state-of-the-art Volvo BZL buses are full battery electric vehicles which offer zero tailpipe emissions. The electric vehicles also emit 72 per cent less well-to-wheel CO2 emissions than an equivalent size diesel bus.

They can travel on average 200 miles between a full charge, which takes approximately five hours, and uses around 1.2 kWh of electricity per kilometre.

The buses also use state-of-the-art batteries that use regenerative braking to recharge every time the bus slows down. To accommodate its expanding fleet, Stagecoach East is also investing £2million into charging infrastructure for its Cambridge depot, to provide smart charging overnight.

Darren added: “This is the first time these vehicles have operated in this country, in their double-deck form. We’ve been a partner with Volvo and CV, who build the bodies for them, for many years.

“What you’re finding about electric vehicles is over the years they’re becoming more and more efficient, which helps with the range, so you may have heard of range anxiety in your cars, there’s obviously a range capacity on buses as well.

“And in two years, that range has moved from about 160 miles a day to 200 miles a day, just in two years – and that 200-250 is kind of like our sweet spot, because that’s roughly how many miles a vehicle will travel a day, so the key is that battery efficiency.”

Interestingly, these new buses don’t have wing mirrors – good news indeed for those who tend to hit their head on them while exiting the bus.

“We’ve got digital cameras on these vehicles, instead of mirrors,” said Darren, “so no longer do we have wing mirrors on the vehicles – they’re using digital cameras now which give a much sharper and clearer image down the sides of the vehicle.

“The driver has effectively got four cameras at each side, and those images are really crystal-clear, irrespective of night, day, inclement weather – which again enhances the safety of the vehicle.”

A competition to name the buses has also launched today, with members of the public asked to take inspiration from people who have made a positive difference to their community. The online form to suggest names for the buses can be found here.

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