YORK'S two new Park&Ride (P&R) sites have been officially opened complete with a fleet of electric buses at Poppleton Bar.

The Lord Mayor, Coun Ian Gillies and Council Leader, James Alexander, cut the ribbon on the £22.7 million pound project, which was 70 per cent funded by the government, and means the city now has six P&R sites – making it one of the largest such services in the country.

The new P&R at Poppleton Bar and larger one near to the previous Askham Bar site has been created by City of York Council with contractors Balfour Beatty and designers CH2M Hill with bus services run by First.

The council hopes the move will cut congestion into the city centre by increasing the parking capacity to 1,100 vehicles at Askham Bar and introducing the new 600-vehicle facility at Poppleton.

Cllr James Alexander, said: "This has been a very complicated project to bring forward, but it's very important and significant for the city and I just hope many people use it."

The single-decker buses’ batteries will be capable of storing enough charge to allow them to operate all day, and the council says more than 80 per cent of bus traffic through York could ultimately be operated by electricity.

Cllr David Levene, cabinet member for transport, said: “The project represents one of the largest single investments in York’s transport infrastructure since the northern ring road was built in the 80s.

"This has been our stated priority for the last three years and builds on our existing portfolio of P&R sites. This is critical for York’s future economic prosperity and environmental wellbeing and we are delighted to be delivering this major improvement today.”

Eddie Tribe, from Balfour Beatty, said: “These new P&R sites will ease congestion and provide people with improved journeys into York city centre.”

Sherburn-in-Elmet-based Optare was procured to manufacture the new electric buses and the new sites will continue to be operated by First bus.

Ben Gilligan, managing director of First in York, said: “The investment by First of nearly £1m in these new Optare Versa Electric Vehicles in York demonstrates our commitment to improving the quality of life by lowering air emissions & congestion and offering low-carbon travel options.”

Enrico Vassallo, CEO of Optare PLC, said: “Optare’s electric vehicles continue to grow in popularity, with orders so far this year totalling 34 vehicles. The new vehicles for York will be in addition to another Optare electric vehicle already operating at the University of York on the campus shuttle service and other Optare electric vehicles already in service in Harrogate, Scotland, Nottingham, Coventry, London, Heathrow Terminal 5, Switzerland and Holland, bringing the total of Optare electric vehicles currently in service to 59."

Go green and get Wi-Fi!

WITH the official launch of York’s first fleet of electric buses The Press deputy news editor,Haydn Lewis hopped on board for a trip to the ribbon-cutting ceremonies at the city’s two new Park&Rides, Askham Bar and Poppleton Bar.

I consider myself lucky that most days I can walk to work and don’t need to add my vehicle to the already congested city-centre streets.

I confess I have never used York Park&Ride or ever been on an electric bus so I’m not sure what I was expecting when our group set off from outside York station for the trip out to the ring road.

If it was engine noise, then apart from a vague whirring sound now and again, there was nothing to hear in that department – gone is the growling noise of the old diesel engine and attendant plume of exhaust fumes to be replaced by, well, the sound of silence.

York’s rush-hour traffic had long since departed when we boarded, so it’s difficult to say how long a commuter’s journey would take. Ours was about quarter of an hour out to Askham Bar which has more than doubled its capacity from 500 to 1,100 car parking spaces.

The big, green, single-decker bus, which comes with its own Wi-Fi, was roomy and comfortable and, despite lacking the usual engine noises, was very like any other bus in essentials.

What was impressive was that the technology behind is home-grown in Yorkshire.

The drive system is from Sheffield-based Magtec and it was built by Optare in Sherburn-in-Elmet.

In summary, the bus was comfortable, quiet and green and possibly the next best thing to walking for getting around the city.

Don't miss: A look back at York's original electric-powered public transport>>

York Press: Trolleybus No 30 in East Parade, Heworth, in the early 1930s