Stagecoach has announced ambitious £56m plans to deliver Europe's largest single investment in electric buses for Greater Manchester.
The first of the planned 105 new zero emissions double-decker buses and associated infrastructure is hoped to go live from summer 2019, delivering a massive boost to local air quality and UK manufacturing, with the new fleet fully in place by early 2020.
Stagecoach, Britain's biggest bus and coach operator, has pledged to invest £34.6m in the ground-breaking project, which is backed by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, Transport for Greater Manchester and other key organisations.
The plans are dependent on a bid for £21.5m in support from the Government's recently announced Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme, which is aimed at cutting emissions and ensuring cleaner and greener journeys.
New Enviro400 EV City vehicles, each with a range of up to 190 miles and capacity to carry around 80 passengers, would be built by the UK's leading electric bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis using battery and power electronics expertise from automotive company BYD.
Multi-million-pound Investment will also be made in delivering infrastructure and power requirements at depot level. Intelligent chargers will be used to limit loadings on the electricity supply and maximise vehicle availability.
Stagecoach is already the UK's biggest investor in hybrid-electric bus technology and has invested more than £1billion in new greener buses over the past decade. The new e-bus fleet for Manchester would significantly outstrip plans recently announced by London Mayor Sadiq Khan for 68 new electric double-decker buses in the capital.
Transforming the air quality in Greater Manchester is one part of a wider multi-million-pound partnership blueprint developed by bus operators to deliver a step-change in the region's bus network. Working with the Mayor and local authorities, it would deliver more comprehensive services, better value fares, simpler ticketing, an improved customer experience, as well as addressing issues around damaging car congestion which impacts bus punctuality.
Martin Griffiths, Chief Executive of Stagecoach Group, said: "This game-changing initiative is the biggest single investment in e-bus technology anywhere in Europe. It is a clear sign of our bold ambition to transform Greater Manchester's bus network.
"Our plans will put Greater Manchester at the forefront of the drive to improve local air quality, and help cement Britain's position as global leader in manufacturing low-emission vehicles. It is also part of our wider partnership proposals to maximise the potential of the bus network to drive the region's economy and better connect its communities.
"By working together, bus operators, the Mayor and the region's local authorities can deliver the quick and sustained improvements we all want to see in Greater Manchester's bus network, building on the major progress we've already made and avoiding unnecessary extra costs to local taxpayers."
Stagecoach's plans would see the new e-buses - which would replace conventional Euro 3 and Euro 4 vehicles - based at its depots in Hyde Road and Sharston. Major charging infrastructure would allow buses to be charged simultaneously, enabling a 24 hour-a-day operation.
The e-bus fleet would operate four key high frequency services connecting Manchester city centre, Manchester Airport, Manchester Piccadilly railway station, six hospitals and two universities. It would also complement recent public investment in bus priority measures in the south of the city.
Two further high frequency services would be operated predominantly by electric vehicles, supported by existing low carbon certified hybrid vehicles at peak times, meaning 36 buses per hour in each direction would be operated by the new e-bus fleet. The introduction of new electric buses will also enable the cascade of existing low-carbon emissions vehicles onto two routes serving Trafford and Salford.
Around 15-20 buses would be introduced a month from summer 2019, with full roll out achieved by early 2020. Infrastructure works would begin in the autumn of 2018 and be fully completed by spring 2019.
The new e-bus fleet for Greater Manchester offers a 62% improvement in CO2 emissions over the latest low-carbon emission buses and supports the region's Air Quality Action Plan. Overall, the initiative would save 2.6 million litres of diesel a year, reduce annual CO2 by 6,800 tonnes, and cut NOx emissions by 24% and particulates by 20% across the fleet.
Poor air quality is estimated to contribute to more than 40,000 premature deaths across the UK each year, with emissions from cars and vans estimated to cost £6bn annually to the NHS and society.
Stagecoach's ground-breaking initiative would also help accelerate the introduction of e-buses across Europe. There are currently around 725,000 buses in operation across Europe, but only an estimated 2,500 of those are fully electric.