The Department for Transport has today announced that Warrington has been successful in its application for Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) funding, first announced by the Prime Minister in 2020, to support the introduction of up to 4,000 zero-emission buses across the country.
It paves the way to the replacement of Warrington’s Own Buses’ entire fleet of diesel buses with 120 new electric buses.
Warrington’s Own Buses - a municipal bus operator, wholly owned by the Council - covers 85% of the bus mileage in the borough, so the conversion of its fleet to all-electric will bring a huge boost to the council’s ambitions to introduce greener and cleaner transport options throughout the borough.
Independently of ZEBRA, the council is committed, as part of the Warrington Town Deal to delivering a new bus depot – relocating the Warrington's Own Buses depot from its current site to a purpose-built new depot on Dallam Lane. Work on the site will begin in December, and the successful ZEBRA bid means the council can forge ahead with plans to equip the new depot with electric vehicle charging infrastructure, ready to house the new fleet of zero emission buses.
The council’s commitment to green energy will also see the new buses charged by green electricity, including from the council’s solar farm in Cirencester. Solar canopy/panels will be installed at the new depot, funded by the council, to further enhance the green credentials of the scheme.
The ZEBRA scheme supports a wide range of council policies aimed at transforming travel, reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality, including the Climate Emergency declaration, the Local Transport Plan (LTP4), the draft Electric Vehicle Strategy, the Air Quality Action Plan, and the Central 6 Regeneration Masterplan.
Warrington Borough Council Leader, Cllr Russ Bowden, said: “Securing this funding is absolutely fantastic news for Warrington. It will enable us to make huge strides in decarbonising our transport system as we work towards a zero-carbon future.
“The introduction of an all-electric bus fleet, charged by renewable energy, will bring massive benefits to our town. It will improve air quality, supporting our work to tackle the climate emergency. It will also provide more environmentally friendly, modern and attractive bus services, encouraging more local people to choose this mode of transport.
“At the same time, this project will put our town at the forefront of delivering sustainable, zero emissions public transport, further enhancing our reputation as forward-thinking location to live, work, and do business.”
Along with the significant reduction in pollution, the all-electric bus fleet will bring further modernisation benefits to make them a more attractive proposition for passengers - including audible and visible route and next stop announcements and a second priority space for wheelchairs, giving better access for all. This supports the council’s plans - through LTP4, the Bus Service Improvement Plan, the Town Deal sustainable travel programme, and the Bus Priority / Mass Transit study - to drive up the number of people choosing to use buses in Warrington.
Chair of Warrington’s Own Buses, Cllr Cathy Mitchell, said: “We welcome this funding, which will bring transformational improvements to bus services in Warrington.
“The investment in an all-electric bus fleet has the potential to be a real game-changer, improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions while providing a modern bus service we can all be proud of. It will help transform perceptions of public transport in our town, supporting our work to drive growth in bus usage.
“Warrington’s Own Buses and the council have a close and established partnership, and this funding will enable us to further strength our working relationships, to deliver the all-electric fleet and to collaborate on a range of further improvements for the long term benefit of passengers and the wider community.
“I would like to sincerely thank our incredible team of council officers and the leadership team at Warrington’s Own Buses for the hard work and time they have invested in making this bid successful. This is an amazing opportunity for us to come together and make a real impact on bus services in the town.”
Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for transportation, highways and public realm, Cllr Hans Mundry, added: “A key priority for us, through LTP4 - and our wider sustainable transport, air quality and public transport projects – is to reduce local air pollution caused by vehicle emissions, reduce car dependency and make public transport a more attractive option.
“The ZEBRA funding will enable us to drive forward with these plans by completely transforming bus travel in Warrington. The introduction of an all-electric bus fleet will improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions, as well as supporting our ongoing economic growth.
“Crucially, a high profile, rapid transformation to an all-electric fleet will help make public transport more attractive, and support our ambitions to encourage a culture change in how people travel around our borough. It’s a fantastic opportunity for Warrington.”
The total cost of the ZEBRA Project over 17 years is £50m. Around £21.5m will be provided by ZEBRA grant funding, with the council and Warrington’s Own Buses providing the remaining funding.