Sunday, April 14, 2024

Palmerston North to boast nation’s first fully-electric bus fleet

Palmerston North will deploy the nation’s first fully-electric bus fleet from February next year, Horizons Regional Council announced this week.

Horizons chair, Rachel Keedwell says Council made the decision to make the fleet fully electric via a recent tender process.

“Introducing 42 brand new electric buses is an exciting and fantastic step forward for decarbonising public transport in the city,” says Cr Keedwell.

“These buses will service the upcoming new and improved Palmerston North and Ashhurst network, which will more than double the number of current bus trips available. I’m really proud of our council for making the bold move to go fully electric and removing the current fleet of 26 diesel buses from circulation.

“This decision supports Horizons and the city in achieving our goals of reducing emissions from transport, including from our bus fleet, and gets Palmerston North closer to the city council’s eco-city aspirations.”

There is currently just one electric bus in the Palmerston North fleet. Come 19 February 2024, 43 will be rolled out, marking one of the largest electric bus fleets in the country.

“Buses at peak times will be every 15 minutes on every route, and 30 minutes outside these times and on weekends, meaning options for getting around the city will be frequent,” said Cr Keedwell.

“Along with having zero emissions, the new bus fleet will be quieter, provide a smoother ride and be more attractive and comfortable for users. The new buses also have a range of more than 300kms so they can undertake a full day in service without needing to charge.”

Cr Keedwell said she hopes city residents will make the most of the new network.

“Bus stops across the city are also getting upgraded and installed in new locations thanks to Palmerston North City Council and Horizons successfully securing $7 million of funding from central government’s Climate Emergency Response Fund late last year,” she says.

“These upgrades will include real time bus tracking information making the bus an attractive and reliable option for people looking to shift from private vehicles.”

The contract for supply of the bus fleet has been awarded to Tranzit Group Ltd.

“Tranzit bring a proven track record of delivering bus services in Palmerston North and we look forward to working with them to deliver this incredible change,” says Cr Keedwell.

“Over the coming months the electric buses will be brought into the country and prepared to join the new network which begins on 19 February 2024. The network was the outcome of public consultation in late 2021, and Horizons and PNCC will be engaging with the community over the coming months on the supporting infrastructure.”

She said the network will cost $11.3 million per year and will be funded by passenger fares, funding agreements with tertiary organisations, Waka Kotahi and Horizons ratepayers in Palmerston North.

“Palmerston North ratepayers will see an increase for public transport services with the 1 July 2023 cost of $13 per $100,000 of capital value increasing to $19 once the service is fully up and running in 2024. However, jumping on board the new high frequency network will quickly provide a cost saving compared to running a private vehicle, as well as lowering emissions.”

Waka Kotahi director regional relationships, Linda Stewart praised Horizons’ move to become the first fully-electrified bus fleet in New Zealand.

“Horizons Regional Council should be commended for their bold decision making, commitment to emissions reduction and leadership,” she said.

The new bus network is a core project in the Palmerston North Integrated Transport Initiative’s (PNITI) programme. It is part of one wider package of work to improve safety and access for people in the city, alongside other projects such as speed management, improved walking and cycling facilities.

Connect, the brand for Horizons regional transport, will be present on all buses operating in the Palmerston North fleet.

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