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PM’s electrifying visit to Harrogate’s leading bus operator
Sunak hails progress on multi-million pound switch to zero emission bus fleet
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has today (12 February 2024) welcomed progress towards a multi-million pound switch to zero emission electric buses during a visit to Harrogate’s leading bus operator.
The Harrogate Bus Company, a subsidiary of Transdev, placed orders in Autumn 2023 worth £21 million for 39 new electric buses and to re-equip its Starbeck depot to convert its entire Harrogate fleet to fully electric power.
The orders are supported by £7.8 million of funding from the Government’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme, following a successful bid by Transdev’s partner, North Yorkshire Council.
Accompanied by Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones, the PM spoke with engineering apprentices and trainee bus drivers setting out on their careers with the bus firm before a briefing on the electrification project with the company’s leadership team during a tour of the depot’s facilities.
The Prime Minister was shown the bus operator’s industry-leading training centre, The Academy, where he was briefed on SkillUp, Transdev’s pioneering joint initiative to tackle the UK’s shortage of expert engineers by attracting newcomers and career switchers into its workshops.
The bus firm is working with Total People, one of the North’s leading apprenticeships providers, to encourage those already in other roles – including bus drivers – to retrain as a qualified engineer. It’s hoped the new engineers will lead Transdev’s wider drive towards electric power, by gaining specialist knowledge needed to maintain the latest battery-powered buses.
Mr Sunak was guided around the depot by Transdev’s Managing Director Henri Rohard and Operations Director Vitto Pizzuti, who briefed the PM on the success of the Government’s £2 fare cap in attracting more people to choose and use the bus.
Speaking after the PM’s visit, Mr Rohard said: “The Prime Minister was very impressed by the progress made towards our first fully electric depot. Our project includes new electric buses, upgraded maintenance facilities, the latest battery charging infrastructure and a commitment to upskill our colleagues with this new technology.
“Our electrification project has been made possible thanks to significant support from the Government’s ZEBRA fund, and Mr Sunak was keen to see and hear how that investment will help us to deliver a revolution in the quality and sustainability of public transport in Harrogate and North Yorkshire.
“In combination with our existing eight Harrogate Electrics-branded Volvo 7900E electric buses, the first of their kind in Britain, 47 fully-electric vehicles will be in service when our project is complete by this summer. All our bus fleet will be renewed, giving The Harrogate Bus Company the most modern and passenger oriented network in Britain.
20 new Mercedes-Benz E-Citaro all-electric single deck buses will be used on The Harrogate Bus Company’s busy urban route 1 between Harrogate and Knaresborough, route 7 linking Harrogate, Wetherby and Leeds, and rural route 24 between Harrogate and Pateley Bridge.
Meanwhile, a further 19 new Alexander Dennis Enviro 400EV fully electric double deck buses will relaunch the company’s flagship route, The 36 linking Ripon, Harrogate and Leeds. A demonstration vehicle built to this new British-built design is currently with The Harrogate Bus Company, as part of its pre-evaluation programme ahead of the arrival of the first of its new electric buses later this year.
The Harrogate Bus Company is currently working with teams from bus manufacturers Alexander Dennis and Mercedes-Benz to ensure all its drivers and engineers have the training and upskilling needed to deliver the best performance from its all-electric bus transformation.