Transport Minister Baroness Vere drives electric bus on visit to York

A Government Minister got behind the wheel of a double-decker bus as she visited a Yorkshire city to visit what is described as  the biggest zero emission park & ride bus fleet in the country.

Conservative Baroness Vere had a driving lesson from one of First York’s driver training team on an all-electric Metrodecker, one of 21 being rolled out in York. It is estimated the 21 Metrodeckers will save more than 1,600 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.

When all the double-deckers are in service this will expand First’s zero emission fleet on the York Park & Ride to 33 buses, the biggest in the country.

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City of York Council, which is run by a Liberal Democrat and Green administration, has submitted a bid to the Department for Transport to become the first ‘all-electric town’ and receive funding to buy more electric buses.

During her visit to York, Transport Minister Baroness Vere met with senior directors of First Bus and the Deputy Leader of City of York Council, which together operate the York Park & Ride network in the city.

She heard about how local authority and operator partnerships worked, technology choices in the future of zero emission bus travel and funding models to enable investment.

She was also shown the Covid-safe travel measures First has put in place including daily deep cleaning of touchpoints throughout buses, use of long-lasting sanitiser and seat markings to help customers sit at a safe distance.

Baroness Vere drives an electric bus during a visit to York

The Minister said: “It’s been excellent to be in York today to discuss the progress being made in growing the number of zero-emission buses on our transport network.

“Decarbonising transport is a key goal for Government, so it’s encouraging not only to see FirstGroup investing in zero-emission technology, but also to hear about the benefits it is bringing to local communities.”

Marc Bichtemann, Managing Director of First York, said: “We were delighted the Minister was keen to see our zero emission fleet in action and discover at first hand the benefits this is bringing to York in improving air quality and reducing congestion.”

As part of the proposed North Yorkshire and York devolution deal, political leaders are asking for a multi-million fund from the Government to introduce dozens of electric buses in a scheme they hope could set an example for the rest of rural England.

North Yorkshire's council leaders, who have been in talks with the Government over a devolution deal and the creation of an elected metro mayor, hope to roll out ultra-low emission vehicles across the county in the coming years.

In a submission to Ministers, they say some electric buses are already being introduced in Harrogate and York in a bid to cut the levels of pollution going into the atmosphere.

But they now say they "need a step-up in funding" to meet the scale of the challenge and are asking for an initial grant of £52.5m to help deliver a three-phase programme for the introduction of electric buses.