Amended ZEBRA plans given go ahead
Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet has given the green light to amended plans for the town’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) scheme.
Cabinet approved the plans at its meeting of Monday 13 February, meaning the council can now move ahead with the project to replace Warrington’s Own Buses’ entire fleet of buses with electric vehicles.
Warrington will deliver 105 buses during 2024, which remains one of the highest number of electric buses to be introduced by any town or city in the UK, replacing the whole fleet.
The council was successful in securing the largest funding award made from the Government’s ZEBRA scheme in 2021, to support the replacement of Warrington’s Own Buses’ fleet of diesels with new electric buses, as part of the work to introduce greener and cleaner transport options throughout the borough.
The council is also making a significant financial contribution to the ZEBRA scheme, with its funding commitment supporting the vision to transform bus travel in Warrington.
The current economic climate has posed challenges to the project, and the council, working with the Government and the bus company, has responded to this with the remodelled scheme. This includes the adjustment of the number of buses to 105 to match the post-Covid requirement, and an increase in the overall budget to deliver the scheme, which is needed due to price increases caused by the current high rate of inflation.
With Government content with the remodelled plans, and approval granted by Cabinet, Warrington can now move forward with the project to deliver a fleet of buses fit for the future.
Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for transportation, highways and public realm, Cllr Hans Mundry: “I’m delighted that Cabinet has now given the go ahead to our remodelled ZEBRA scheme. This investment will be transformative for bus travel in our borough, enabling us to provide environmentally friendly, modern and attractive bus services for everyone.
“Delivering a truly green bus system will bring huge benefits for Warrington, significantly improving air quality and supporting our ambitions to decarbonise our transport system as we work towards a zero-carbon future.
“At the same time, delivering one of the highest numbers of electric buses in the UK 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.
“Crucially, this significant investment in the town’s bus company, will make a huge difference to local people, helping make our buses more reliable and attractive and keeping fares low, which we hope will encourage many more people to choose this mode of transport.”
To maximise the benefits of the ZEBRA funding, the council has committed to an Enhanced Partnership with all local operators locally. Alongside Warrington’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), the Enhanced Partnership will see the council engaging with all bus operators in Warrington, ensuring high standards are set out in terms of:
• State-of-the-art vehicles, with the highest standards of quality and accessibility.
• Clear targets for journey times and joint reliability improvements, to be reported at least every six months.
• Identifying where bus priority measures are needed.
Chair of Warrington’s Own Buses, Cllr Cathy Mitchell, said: “If we want to move forward with tackling the climate emergency and encouraging people to change the ways they move around our town, it’s vital we invest in the future of public transport. Cabinet approval of these amended plans is another important step forward.
“The ZEBRA project – and the introduction of one of the largest fleets of electric buses in the UK – gives us a fantastic opportunity to deliver greener and cleaner transport and transform perceptions of bus travel, supporting our work to drive growth in bus usage in our borough.
“At the same time, the overall improvements delivered through our Enhanced Partnership with bus operators and our Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), will ensure that the introduction of our new fleet of electric vehicles is just one part of a much wider package of measures designed to drive up the quality of bus services across the board.”
Ben Wakerley, Managing Director at Warrington’s Own Buses, added: “This is great news for Warrington. As well as the clear environmental benefits it will bring, the introduction of our electric fleet will dramatically improve the quality of our services, building on the slashed fares we have already introduced and improving reliability and punctuality.
“Around five million bus journeys take place in Warrington each year. The introduction of new, modern, environmentally-friendly buses which are fit for the future, will provide a better experience for customers, bringing more passengers, taking cars off the road and helping to alleviate congestion.
“Warrington’s Own Buses is financially sound and on course to deliver a profit this year. I’m delighted that we are moving forward with the ZEBRA project, which gives us even more confidence in improved sustainability for our company in the coming years.”
Finishing touches are currently being made to Warrington’s new bus depot - an important project in Warrington’s Town Deal programme – with the depot due to be handed over to Warrington’s Own Buses for occupation in the coming weeks. The new depot will be equipped with electric vehicle charging infrastructure, ready to house the new fleet of zero emission buses when they launch in 2024.
ZEBRA is the Government’s initiative to introduce 4,000 zero-emission buses across England by 2025.