In a further boost to Tyneside bus services, Stagecoach North East has announced the introduction of 23 brand new buses to its Newcastle fleet.
The new double deck ADL MMC Enviro 400 buses will operate up to every six minutes as Stagecoach service 39/40, connecting the communities of Dumpling Hall, Chapel House, Fenham, Byker and Wallsend after an investment of £5.2 million.
Operating from the company's Walkergate depot, the buses will feature state-of-the-art, Euro 6 engines equipped with Stop-Start technology for improved fuel efficiency and audio-visual next stop announcements with scrolling LED displays. The journey experience is also enhanced by improved seating for customer comfort, free Wi-Fi, USB charging points and contactless payments on-board.
These improvements to the fleet further demonstrate Stagecoach's commitment to investment in an enhanced travel experience for passengers. During 2016, £9m was invested in 43 new buses for the company's two Newcastle depots, and a further £3m investment was made earlier this year on 18 Enviro 200 buses in Teesside. Recent research by KPMG shows that every £1 invested in local bus services generates up to £8 in wider social, economic and environmental benefits.
Gary Chisholm, Engineering Director at Stagecoach North East, said: "Embracing new technology and continually investing in improvements is helping to make life easier for all of our passengers. With increased traffic congestion on our roads, offering a greener way to travel with the inception of Euro 6 technology has never been so important.”
Euro 6 buses emit less NOx than a new Euro 6 diesel car and, as the bus has 15-20 times the carrying capacity of a typical car, just one bus can replace up to 75 car trips. As congestion is costing the UK economy more than £13b a year and bus organisations continue to invest in making buses a better choice, there has never been a better time to make the switch to public transport.
Stagecoach has been working with Newcastle council officers to improve bus priority within the city centre, with the aim of reducing journey times, improving reliability and making buses a better choice.
Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “Encouraging our residents to swap from their cars to public transport is an important move in helping to tackle climate change in Newcastle. Less cars on our roads means less pollution and reduces Newcastle’s carbon footprint, helping us achieve our ambitious target of being NetZero by 2030.
“I welcome this investment from Stagecoach in more environmentally friendly buses that will not only reduce their emissions but provide a modern, comfortable journey for their passengers.”
The local Stagecoach team will be working with key user group, North East Action on Transport (NEAT), to develop the next stop announcement technology for passengers with visual impairments.
NEAT is an informal user led group with aims to make public transport more accessible to people with a visual impairment. The group is comprised of service users and staff from sight loss charities and organisations, such as Guide dogs and RNIB.
Angus Huntley, Empowerment Officer for Newcastle Vision Support, said: "North East Action on Transport welcomes the introduction of the new vehicles in Newcastle and the audio announcements and visual displays, which now make bus travel much more accessible to people with sight loss. We believe the introduction of this technology is an important step in improving the travel experience for people with sight loss, helping them to feel more confident and be more independent."
Steve Walker, Managing Director at Stagecoach North East, said: "We believe that breaking down barriers for those unfamiliar with bus travel is central to encouraging modal shift to public transport. We're delighted that this new technology is helping to make life easier for all of our passengers and making buses a better option. We would like to thank the team from NEAT for their valuable contribution."