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A fleet of 34 new electrically powered buses will be serving passengers in Gosport, Fareham and Portsmouth by the end of 2023 after First Bus placed one of the UK’s largest Electric Vehicle (EV) bus orders with manufacturer Wrightbus.

The order for the South-East Hampshire area follows successful bids by the bus operator in partnership with Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth City Council to the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) funding scheme.

Councillor Edward Heron, Executive Lead Member for Environment and Transport Strategy at Hampshire County Council, said: “This really is welcome news and I’m pleased the County Council has been an active player in this significant development which supports our Climate Change target. We are committed to building on the good relationships we have with bus operators to improve services in Hampshire and drive up passenger numbers, as demonstrated by our Bus Service Improvement Plan.”

Councillor Lynne Stagg, Cabinet Member for Traffic and Transportation at Portsmouth City Council, said: “The ordering of 34 zero emission buses is a key milestone as we race forward with our plans to transform bus travel, to make it cleaner, greener and better connected. This will be an exciting next step for Portsmouth.”

A total of £81 million in 193 new Zero Emission vehicles to support bus services across England will be invested, with First Bus committing £43 million and the DfT contributing grant funding for the remaining £38 million to complete the electric fleet project.  This is the largest ever UK EV bus order outside of London and the UK-built buses will be some of the world’s most efficient single and double-decker buses, whilst securing new green jobs for the UK.

Marc Reddy, Managing Director, First Bus Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire said: “We are very excited to be able to bring 34 zero emission vehicles to Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport. We wholeheartedly endorse the city council’s work on cleaner air and its pledge to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030. One of our main goals is to make the bus part of the solution when it comes to improving air quality in the city and the EV buses do exactly that. These state-of-the-art buses will be environmentally friendly and improve air quality.”

As well as Portsmouth City Council and Hampshire County Council, First Bus has worked closely with four other local authority partners (Leicester, Norfolk, West Yorkshire and York) to secure the funding and help to bridge the gap between the cost of a Euro VI diesel bus and the EV equivalent as well as the relevant infrastructure costs necessary to charge the vehicles. Each regional project will be completed over the course of the next two years, meaning that First Bus will have over 500 EV buses in operation, in what will be a huge leap forward towards First Bus’s pledge of an entirely zero emission fleet by 2035.