I am delighted to share with you the news that Oxfordshire’s £32.8m Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) bid to the Department for Transport (DfT) was successful.

Along with £6m from the council and £43.7m from bus companies Go Ahead and Stagecoach, the DfT funding will deliver 159 electric buses and the infrastructure to charge them in a package worth £82.5m.

The electric buses will be rolled out over approximately nine months, starting from summer 2023. The new buses will be used on bus routes operating wholly within the Oxford Smart Zone, an area covering all of Oxford and stretching from Kidlington in the north to Sandford in the south, and from Cumnor in the west to Wheatley in the east. They will save an estimated 9,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year – the equivalent of taking more than 6,000 cars off the road – and will mean that approximately 70% of bus miles driven in the Smart Zone area will be operated by electric buses.

The funding is a major boost to the council’s wider plans for transport decarbonisation and cleaner air in the county, and is directly linked to our proposals for traffic filters, a larger zero emission zone and a workplace parking levy in Oxford. Public consultation on these linked schemes will take place in summer 2022 and will help shape the final plans before a Cabinet decision in the autumn.

The proposed traffic filters in particular will help deliver bus journey time savings of at least 10% in the city, which are required to enable the bus operators to make their £43.7m investment for ZEBRA. DfT’s funding will therefore not be transferred to the county council until after the Cabinet makes its decision on the traffic filters in the autumn.

Cllr Andy Graham