First West of England Commercial Director Rob Pymm (centre) with North Somerset Council's Passenger Transport Service Manager Carl Nicholson and Climate, Waste and Sustainability Executive member Cllr Annemieke Waite

First Bus invests over £50m in electric buses in the West of England

First West of England is to invest more than £50m introducing its first electric buses in the region.

The cash injection will be spent on 98 new electric buses (91 double deckers and seven single deckers), as well as revamping its depots at Weston-super-Mare and Hengrove where new infrastructure will be built to support vehicle charging.

The company’s investment will be supported with almost £9m of government funding through its Zero Emissions Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) project thanks to partnership work with North Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority.

These will be First West of England’s first electric buses, and will carry passengers on the following routes: X1 (Weston to Bristol), X4 (Portishead to Bristol), 8 (Temple Meads to Clifton via city centre), 24 (Southmead Hospital to Ashton Gate), 70 (Hengrove to UWE Frenchay via city centre), 72 (Temple Meads to UWE Frenchay), 73 (Whitchurch to Bradley Stoke via Temple Meads) and 75/76 (Hengrove to Henbury/Cribbs Causeway via city centre).

The vehicles are expected to be delivered at the end of 2025, and will be in service in early 2026.

Not only will the new buses provide a far comfier and smoother ride for passengers and be more reliable than the current diesel vehicles, but they will also reduce noise at the depots and on local roads, and, most importantly, they will significantly reduce carbon emissions, helping the bus operator to protect the local environment and clean up air quality.

Electrifying buses and depots will allow business-to-business charging for local companies, as well as bringing employment and training opportunities, including upskilling the existing engineering team, and providing apprenticeship opportunities for local people both in engineering and driving.

Doug Claringbold, First West of England Managing Director, said: “This is a real landmark moment for the West of England, as we secure our first electric buses in the region, demonstrating our ongoing commitment towards a zero-emissions bus fleet by 2035.

“We’re delighted that our customers will benefit from over £50 million that we as a company are investing in this upgrade to our buses and transforming the Weston-super-Mare and Hengrove depots, alongside the government funding. We’ve worked tirelessly with North Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority to get to this point, and we cannot wait to get these vehicles on the road.  

“It’s an exciting time for our colleagues as we start to transform both depots, and it’s also great news for our customers who will benefit the most from these state-of-the-art vehicles, including improved air quality and a much better journey experience overall.

“We’re proud to be a leader in sustainable transport, and we’ll continue to work closely with central and local Government to deliver our decarbonisation ambitions to create a nation that loves and uses the bus.” 

Notes to editors

The new buses will mean 33% of the total fleet in Weston will be electric, and 65% at Hengrove. The number of electric buses being introduced in the West of England in this second round of ZEBRA funding will be the largest number of any other First Bus area.

The funding for electrifying buses in the West of England is as follows:

Hengrove: £37.4m of investment from First Bus, and £6.6m of government (ZEBRA) funding.

Weston-super-Mare: £12.8m of investment from First Bus, and £2.1m of government (ZEBRA) funding.

As a UK company, First Bus is already well on its way to achieving its decarbonisation goal by 2035, with 15% of its vehicles expected to be zero emissions by this spring.