FreeBee bus could return to Sheffield city centre after bid for slice of £120m funding

A electric shuttle bus could be launched in Sheffield after officials applied to a Government zero emission scheme.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 10:41 am

It is among several proposals in an ‘expression of interest’ to the £120 million Zero Emission Bus in Region Areas (ZEBRA) Fund.

The Sheffield City Region is among 17 transport authorities selected in July to progress to phase two of the competition. They must now create a business case for investment.

It marks a significant step forward for The Star’s campaign to bring back the FreeBee bus to boost city centre trade and help passengers affected by a traffic ban on Pinstone Street. The move, in June 2020, saw 27 services relocated to stops a quarter of a mile away.

The launch of the original FreeBee bus in Sheffield in 2007

An electric bus would also avoid charges under a proposed Clean Air Zone in the city centre.

A spokeswoman for Sheffield City Council said: “At this early stage, all proposals submitted are still under consideration and details are in development.”

The Star understands a decision could be announced in October, with the money arriving next year.

The Greens and Lib Dems have supported the return of the FreeBee service for several years.

It would cost £1,080,000 to buy three new, electric vehicles and £427,000-a-year to run them, it is estimated.

The original FreeBee service had three buses providing a seven-minute frequency. It ran for seven years to 2014 before being axed by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive to save money.

The ZEBRA scheme will provide up to £120m for local transport authorities outside London to support the introduction of zero-emission buses and infrastructure to support them.

This funding will support the introduction of the 4,000 zero-emission buses announced by the Prime Minister in February 2020.

So far 50 zero-emission buses are on the road, prompting some MPs to criticise the pace of the roll out after the announcement 18 months ago.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Since February 2020 we have made funding available for 900 zero emission buses, and 50 of these buses are already on the road. We’re committed to introducing 4,000 zero emission buses and achieving an all-zero emission bus fleet.

“As set out in our bus strategy, we will provide £120m to support up to 500 zero emission buses between now and March 2022.”