A FLEET of new electric buses will take to the streets of York, as part of a new £3.3m investment in the city.

Two dozen new buses will be brought to the city, making York the country’s first fully electric Park & Ride fleet, as part of the Department for Transport’s Low Emission Bus Scheme.

Under the scheme, which will be match funded, 18 new double deckers and six new larger single deckers will join the 11 existing electric buses next year, along with three new electric buses which were already planned for the service.

Councillor Ian Gillies, executive member for transport, said the announcement was “truly exceptional news for the entire city, and a further step towards our goal of a fully electric bus fleet”.

He said: “Every electric bus can prevent air pollution caused by diesel bus engines, so 24 more will have a massive impact on the air that we breathe.

“We’re proud that the government has acknowledged our ambition, and that our Park and Ride service is leading the way in making York an even healthier and more attractive place to live, visit and do business.”

The new double deckers will be capable of running all day on a single charge through most of the year, and the new additions to the fleet could mean all four million park and ride journeys – making up more than a third of all York’s bus journeys - will be on ultra-low emission vehicles.

The Government announced the new deal today, as local authorities and bus companies in Bristol, Brighton, Surrey, Denbighshire and Wiltshire were also awarded funds.

York’s £3.3m is the second highest grant, behind only South Gloucestershire Council’s £4.8m, which will pay for 110 gas buses to be used around Bristol.

Transport Minister Paul Maynard said: “City of York Council’s plans will make a real difference in cleaning up emissions from buses in the local area.

“New greener buses will be more comfortable for passengers, they are cost efficient and are good for the environment. I am pleased that our funding will deliver 24 new electric buses for York.”

Earlier this month, the council announced it would become the first UK city outside of London to try the new, fully electric double decker buses from North Yorkshire firm Optare.

While no firm start date for the new fleet can yet be confirmed, First’s new contract with City of York Council begins next year and The Press understands the £3.3m funding will then go through a procurement process with First, and it is not yet possible to state which make or model of bus would be selected to be used in the new fleet.

The new fleet will help improve vehicle emissions in the city, which have been a problem for the council in recent years.

The council set itself a target of creating a clean air zone in the centre of York by 2018, and part of the plan was to take action on highly polluting diesel buses.

In July, the council also announced it was considering launching the city’s first Air Quality Zone (AQZ) to try to deter larger diesel vehicles which emit nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gases.

The authority also said it was considering introducing fines or charges for drivers who left their vehicles’ engines idling while stationary at bus stops and coach parks, in an effort to improve the city’s air quality.

Previous electric buses - also from Optare and run by First - were introduced when the Poppleton Bar Park&Ride was opened in June 2014, and are still in operation.