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£21.5m zero emission funding secures all-electric bus fleet for Warrington!

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HOT on the heels of a new bus depot Warrington is now set to benefit from an all-electric bus fleet thanks to more than £20m in Government funding to transform travel in the borough.

The Department for Transport has announced Warrington Borough Council has been successful in its application for £21.5m in 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 and has been welcomed by politicians across the town, including council leader Russ Bowden and Warrington South MP Andy Carter.

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. £21.5m will be provided by ZEBRA grant funding, with the council and Warrington’s Own Buses providing the remaining funding.

Welcoming the news Warrington South MP Andy Carter, said: “Local people have consistently told me that they want to see frequent, reliable bus services across Warrington South. This is a fantastic announcement for the town. On the back of today’s commitment we’ll see a big investment into modern, clean and efficient public transport in our town – which will allow the money saved from operating an older diesel fleet can go into providing better services where they are most needed.”

This investment follows £5million secured from HM Government to create a new electric bus depot for the town last year, freeing up brownfield land for affordable homes to be built.
Mr Carter added: “I’ve worked closely with Department of Transport Ministers, Warrington’s Own Buses & Council Officers who submitted a plan which I was happy to endorse to secure around £25million investment for our town. The Chancellor is listening and delivering on his commitment to invest right across the North of England. As well as connecting areas across the town we also need to ensure we have good links to neighbouring areas and this investment allows Warrington’s Own Buses to do just that.

“This investment follows £22m Town Deal secured for Warrington almost exactly 12 months ago and the news last week that the Government will be supporting the HyNet hydrogen cluster, securing well paid and green jobs in Warrington and across the region, while helping to decarbonise industry across the town. I’m committed to speaking up for Warrington South in Westminster and so that we can secure the investment we need to move our town forward.”

In addition to the investment into zero-emission buses for Warrington the whole of the northwest will also benefit from its share of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is focused on helping people into jobs and supporting businesses, including giving hundreds of thousands of adults the opportunity to develop their numeracy skills though the adult numeracy programme, Multiply and a new £660 million Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund from additional funding for the British Business Bank.
Transport links are also set for more funding, with £32.6 billion for local upgrades over this Parliament, including the A595 Grizebeck Bypass in Cumbria and £24 billion for strategic roads investment, including the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine.

Warrington Buses MD Ben Wakerley and Chair Cllr Cathy Mitchell.

Andy carter (right) with Warringtons Own Buses MD Ben Wakerley

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Experienced journalist for more than 40 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with three in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Director Warrington Chamber of Commerce Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.

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