‘Bus depot of the future’ launches in Leicester as one of the UK’s first fully electric depots outside of London

  • First Bus’ Leicester depot will join York and Norwich to become one of the UK’s first three fully electrified bus depots outside of London 
  • The ‘bus depot of the future’ sets a precedent for UK-wide road transport decarbonisation  
  • First Bus Leicester will have 86 new electric buses expected on public roads by March 2024 
  • This brings the total investment across all ZEBRA projects that First Bus is delivering to £92m, alongside ZEBRA funding of £66m.  

First Bus has announced that its Leicester depot will become one of the UK’s first electrified bus depots outside of London, alongside its York and Norwich depots. 

The announcement came after First Bus and its local authority partner successfully secured Department for Transport (DfT) approval to boost their existing Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) funding.  

Hailed a ‘depot of the future,’ Leicester will set the precedent for a further 5 depots to become electrified by March 2024 through boosted ZEBRA funding. 

First Bus will invest £6.6m to bring this project to fruition, alongside additional DfT funding of £2.9m secured in partnership with Leicester City Council. 54% of the funding will be provided by First Bus, with the remaining 46% coming from the UK Government’s ZEBRA scheme. An additional 18 electric buses will arrive in Leicester later this year, with 86 hitting the road by March 2024. 

Roads and Local Transport Minister, Richard Holden, visited the Leicester depot today (21 March) to welcome the new fleet of ZEBRA-funded and British-built buses, courtesy of manufacturing partners Wrightbus.  

Minister Holden said:   

 “Buses are the most popular form of public transport, and these new UK-made zero emission buses will help make them more attractive still by providing cleaner, smoother and more reliable services across Leicester.    

 “We’re providing an extra three million pound to roll out 18 new electric buses to provide residents in Leicester with better, cleaner and quieter journeys, as we step up a gear to reach net zero faster and level up transport across the country.” 


Janette Bell, Managing Director at First Bus, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that Leicester will become one of our blueprint bus depots of the future, helping us to refine and iterate this new concept so we can roll it out across the rest of the UK. At First Bus, we’re continuing to trailblaze with our partners to ensure we meet our net zero targets, supported by co-funding from the Department for Transport.  

“As leaders in sustainable mobility, we are fully aligned with the Government’s ambitions for a net zero carbon transport system. Through this co-funding with the ZEBRA scheme, we’re excited to electrify another 5 of our UK depots before March 2024, and look forward to introducing even more electric buses to our constantly growing fleet. 

“We cannot wait to see our customers’ reactions once the project is complete, as we know the difference this will make to the city. Electric really is the future and we’re glad we can take our customers on this journey with us.” 

 Cllr Adam Clarke, Deputy City Mayor responsible for Transport, Clean Air and Climate Emergency said,  "As part of the Leicester Buses Partnership, we are committed to making the whole of Leicester's bus network electric, or zero-emission, by 2030,"  

"I'm very pleased that our successful bids for electric bus funding have been able to support First Bus’ investment in these 86 new zero-emission buses. 

"With our partners, we're also delivering a range of complementary projects designed to make bus travel more attractive to customers. 

"New bus shelters, real-time information displays, integrated timetables, additional bus lanes and 'best fare' ticketing are just some of the initiatives that will complement the welcome investment in sustainable transport that First Bus is making in Leicester." 

Leicester Bus one arrival #2

At the conclusion of the ZEBRA projects, First Bus will have over 600 zero-emission buses in its fleet. This latest boost means First Bus currently has 328 fully electric buses on order with Ballymena-based Wrightbus, which will help secure green jobs in the short-term.  

Ian Gillott, Managing Director (Parts and Services) at Wrightbus said: "Our partnership with First Bus is hugely significant in the drive to zero-emission public transport.  It has been a real team effort between the local authority, Wrightbus and First Bus to deliver this exciting project.  We can’t wait to see these buses in operation in Leicester, which will help passengers enjoy comfortable and cleaner transport. We are consistently at the forefront of zero and low-emission travel and would be delighted to progress future orders, dependent on future co-funding opportunities.”  

Supporting the heart of the communities it serves, First Bus will convert these depots and install the new infrastructure to house these state-of-the-art vehicles, in partnership with the local Distribution Network Operator and local authorities. New chargers will be provided by Heliox and can fully charge a bus in just 3.5 hours. 

All ZEBRA projects are run in close partnership with the local authorities in these regions, bringing transformational results to the local bus fleet and enhancing journeys for communities and the environment. 


Notes to editors

Key Facts & Figures on Leicester EV project: 

  • First Bus Leicester have secured an extra 18 EV Buses in partnership with Leicester City Council through the DfT's ZEBRA funding programme. 
  • First Bus Leicester depot will now operate a fully electric fleet of 86 buses from March 2024.   
  • Around £38m has been invested in the project so far, through First Bus investment and DfT funding in partnership with Leicester City Council 
  • With Leicester City Council under the Enhanced Partnership, complementary measures including full bus priority and roadside infrastructure improvements will be introduced. Multi operator ticketing is already in place in the city. 
  • The GB Kite Electroliner BEV and the StreetDeck Electroliner BEV, which is the world's most efficient double deck battery-electric bus - are manufactured and assembled at Wrightbus’ Ballymena factory, which means support for UK jobs through their domestic supply chain. 
  • New Chargers will be provided by Dutch supplier Heliox and can fully charge a bus in 3.5 hours - more information here:
  • Smart charging software will allow the First Bus team to optimise the best time of day to charge their vehicles and to manage battery charge in real time.  

About First Bus  

First Bus is one of the UK’s largest bus operators. Making journeys easier for our customers, we were the first national bus operator to accept contactless card payments across all our services and our First Bus App is voted ‘best in class’ amongst UK bus operators. Our most recent investments are in new, state-of-the-art buses across our key networks. We work proactively with our local authority partners, making a positive impact on air quality, tackling congestion, and improving customer experience.  

We are focused on First Bus becoming a leader in the transition to a low-carbon future and are committed to operating a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035; we have pledged not to purchase any new diesel buses after December 2022. We also operate the Aircoach network in Ireland.  

First Bus is a division of FirstGroup.   

Find more information on First Bus here: First Bus UK News