Nottingham’s pioneering investment in electric buses reaches a key milestone this week with the official launch of the UK’s first all-electric Park & Ride services.

Nottingham’s two bus-based Park & Ride sites – at Nottingham Racecourse and Queens Drive – will see their services turn electric from January following an investment of £3.2million. The 13 new fully electric single decker buses, supplied by Chinese manufacturer BYD, add to the 45 already in service and combine to make one of the largest electric bus fleets in Europe.

The service from Queens Drive, currently Citylink1, will be branded Centrelink – extending and continuing the previous cross-city service under that name – while the service from Nottingham Racecourse, currently Citylink2, will be branded Ecolink, which will run along the UK’s first Eco Expressway giving priority to electric vehicles.

On Friday 16 December at a ceremony to mark the launch of the new services, ten pupils from Welbeck primary school – who won a poster competition with designs showing the environmental benefits of Nottingham’s electric buses – will each have one of the city’s new electric buses named after them. The event at Queens Drive Park and Ride will be presided over by Nottingham South MP Lillian Greenwood and the City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Business, Growth and Transport, Councillor Nick McDonald.

The investment has principally come from Department for Transport’s Green Bus Funding Round and the City Council’s Workplace Parking Levy. Further funds were received from the Department for Transport Local Sustainable Transport Fund, Plugged in Places, Office of Low Emission Vehicle and the European Union Remourban Project. It means that nearly all of the City Council’s Link Bus Services will be electric, allowing operator Nottingham Community Transport to provide emission-free services to workplaces, health and education sites and district centres for five million passenger trips a year.

Since starting operations in 2012, the existing electric bus fleet of 45 reached the one million mile mark earlier this year, generating fuel savings of £300,000, reductions in carbon emissions of at least 1,050 tonnes and improved air quality due to the vehicles’ zero emissions. The whole Electric Bus Project has cost over £15m, with a third coming from Workplace Parking Levy and rest from external government grants.

The City Council will shortly be consulting on plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone over the next three years, taking in over one hundred bus stops and two bus stations across the city centre. This will aim to set a minimum entry standard with ultra-low emission standards for certain sensitive areas with high pedestrian use by 2020.

It is also planned that the charging network will be expanded over the next two years, using the Office for Low Emission Vehicles Low Emission Bus Scheme Grant (LEBS), along with the installation of a network of rapid chargers for electric buses at strategic points around the city.

Councillor Nick McDonald, Portfolio Holder for Business, Growth and Transport at Nottingham City Council, said: “These new buses are a welcome addition to our Linkbus services, which ensure that local residents are provided with emission-free public transport to access local amenities and neighbourhoods and vital medical, education and work links as well as improving air quality. One of the key objectives of this project was to drive down running costs so that subsidised services like Linkbus can be retained at times of severe budget restraints, which we have so far achieved.

“Nottingham is proud to be named a designated Go Ultra Low City, as well as being one of five UK cities with a commitment to introduce a Clean Air Zone with Euro 6 emission entry standards for buses by 2020. It hasn’t been easy being an early adopter of such cutting-edge technology, but the partnership has now achieved a reliable electric bus network. It is hoped that other bus operators and contractors in Nottingham will make use of this charging network and local expertise.”

Ian Combellack, Manager of Nottingham Community Transport said, “We’re really looking forward to operating the new Centrelink and Ecolink Park and Ride services from the end of January, and as the largest operator of electric buses in Europe, we’re also excited about working with Nottingham City Council and BYD on the final stages of the electric bus project, including the introduction of the new Eco Expressway.  The new Centrelink service will also provide a valuable new link to Victoria Bus Station from Queen’s Drive Park and Ride, which we hope will be attractive to both existing and new customers.”

Frank Thorpe, BYD’s UK Country Manager, who will be handing over the buses at the launch, said: “Winning this order from Nottingham, which has one of the largest fleets of electric buses in the UK, is of huge significance to BYD. Nottingham City Council selected our ebuses after a comprehensive evaluation programme involving a variety of competitors demonstrating the strength of our proven technology. It’s no surprise that other major UK provincial cities – such as Liverpool – are already following Nottingham’s lead.”