SOUTH Yorkshire’s biggest bus operator, First, this week announced a multi-million pound investment a new generation of cleaner, more fuel efficient buses, with wi-fi internet and leather seats.
The company has committed to replacing half its 200-strong Sheffield fleet by 2017, with 40 new buses due to be on the road in Sheffield this summer.
The announcement came as some Fares went up this week, with the firm blaming ‘inflationary pressures’ such as wages, fuel and cost of parts.
Ben Gilligan, First’s regional performance director, said passenger numbers were beginning to grow after a 40” decline over the last decade. In addition, fewer complaints are now being received.
“We are making the biggest investment in a long time,” he said. “The first 40 new buses, worth £5m, are due to be launched in South Yorkshire in June or July.
It is likely they will be phased in on the 51, 52 and 76 routes.
The new ‘Streetlite’ buses, fitted with Euro 5 standard diesel engines, are being made by Northern Irish company Wright.
Mr Gilligan said: “With lighter bodies and the latest engines, they will be 50% more fuel efficient than current buses.
“We have test driven one on a trail run in Sheffield and it could carry a full load of passengers up East Bank Road - one of our steepest routes - just as well as a conventional bus.”
Mr Gilligan said that First has made a commitment under the Sheffield Bus Partnership agreement with the council to ensure half its buses have Euro 5 engines by October 2017.
The only buses currently in service with Euro 5 engines are four which are used on the Sheffield ‘Freebie’ free city centre service.
Mr Gilligan said the decision to cut fares last summer, coupled with the increased cost of fuel and car insurance, had led to the resurgence in bus travel.
He added: “Fares are still cheaper than they were last year despite this week’s increase so we hope it won’t have too much of an impact - and some prices have been frozen.”