Council bidding for government cash to help set up eco-friendly bus fleet with no carbon emissions

A Bid for millions of pounds in funding could help Swindon cover costs of new buses powered by renewable energy.

The council’s third attempt to receive government cash from the £120 million ZEBRA scheme -Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas - has been more successful than the previous two tries.

Coun Keith Williams is the borough’s cabinet member for climate change and is helping with the council’s efforts to make Swindon carbon neutral by 2030.

He explained that the local authority is now through to the second round of bidding and is up against one other council in the south of England.

If the bid is approved, the money would cover the difference in costs between taking on hydrogen or renewably sourced electric buses and paying for normal petrol-fuelled ones, making them the same price.

Coun Williams said: "We are not wedded to any particular technology. Swindon is ideally located to not just run a fleet of buses that are electric but renewably powered as well.

"We have extensive solar infrastructure, we have a hydrogen fuel station, and both of our bus companies are fully on board with this. It's important for improving air quality and it's more environmentally-friendly."

This would tie in with the council’s ambitious plans for a bus boulevard on Fleming Way which aims to encourage more people to ditch their cars and use public transport instead.

The government gave £25 million to Swindon for the scheme which would close the road to all vehicles except buses and lower it, removing the pedestrian underpass and completing the link between the Eastern and Western Flyer cycle routes.

If Swindon’s bid for funding is approved, there would then be an open tender process where suppliers of zero-emission bus fleets could apply to be the ones used by the borough.

Wrightbus is one hopeful supplier, which estimated that 20 hydrogen buses replacing diesel ones could remove 1,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the borough’s streets, with each bus cutting up to 80 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Chairman Jo Bamford said: “Swindon Borough Council has already shown an ambition to create a more sustainable place to live and work, thanks to its commitment to being carbon neutral by 2030. Public transport should be a key area for action.

“A relatively simple way to help it achieve its goals and help the UK to head towards net zero would be the introduction of zero-emission buses - and with the funding currently available from central government, there’s never been a better time to do it.

“Aberdeen was the first place in the world to place its trust in the latest hydrogen technology - and it is already reaping the rewards with a significant reduction in CO2 levels, with 170 tonnes removed from the atmosphere in just three months, not to mention a vastly improved customer experience.

"Swindon could still be at the forefront of this zero-emission revolution - but only if it acts now.”

Publisher – Swindon Advertiser

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