This is how Oxfordshire is shaping the future of UK travel

By: Oxfordshire County Council

The first use of fully connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) on public roads is set to take place in Oxfordshire, following the announcement of government funding into a trial project.

Innovate UK has today (25 February) announced the award of £2.5 million to trial self-driving vehicles in and around Milton Park, the large, high-tech business and science hub near Didcot. The vehicles will travel between private roads at Milton Park and the public roads that link the site with nearby transport services.

The 30-month MultiCAV project will be undertaken by a consortium of organisations with different sector backgrounds who are investing in the development of autonomous vehicles, and led by UK transport operator FirstGroup.

Despite being relatively close to Didcot Parkway station, most travel to and from Milton Park is currently done in private vehicles. With the site set to expand in the coming years, the MultiCAV consortium is building on the work already underway to provide the park with long-term, safe sustainable transport.

Commuters to the site will be able to connect with the self-driving pods from local transport services, while booking and paying for their trip in one easy process.

It is hoped that by the end of the trial up to 50% of private vehicle journeys within the business park will switch to using the shared, electric-powered pods.

BEIS Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for Business and Energy, Richard Harrington, said: “Through these competitions, we are offering innovative businesses support to take their projects to the next level and help them achieve commercial success. The projects that we are nurturing mean that we are a step closer to securing our place as a world leader in self-driving vehicles. This significant investment is a mark of the innovation that is at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy. The development of new technologies is a cornerstone of the UK’s world-class science and research and will ensure that we deliver a Britain fit for the future by creating jobs and the skills needed to succeed.”

Innovate UK Chief Executive Ruth McKernan said: “The quality and commercial potential of these successful projects demonstrate how UK businesses are developing pioneering connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. The impact will benefit our thriving automotive industry and the economy as a whole.”

Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Environment and Economy, said: “Oxfordshire was the first council to consider autonomous vehicles within its transport policy and has been a supporter of the technology since it’s infancy in the UK.

“We have an incredible concentration of AV related companies, and in Culham, RACE the UK’s real world test bed facility.

“The county council has been keen on including innovation in the delivery of Didcot Garden Town from the very start and this project will be one of the first to demonstrate the approach and further enhance Oxfordshire’s place as a world leader in applied learning and development of AVs.”

John Birtwistle, project lead for FirstGroup, said: “We’re excited to be leading the first mainstream use of autonomous vehicles in the UK. By connecting the Milton Park development with the existing regional transport infrastructure, including Great Western Railway trains at Didcot Parkway station, commuters will see a tangible reason to leave their cars at home. It’s a huge step towards tackling the problem of congestion on our roads and enabling the sustainable future development of the business park and, potentially, other similar sites in the future.”

Vectos, a London-based transport consultancy, has been helping MEPC identify sustainable travel initiatives at Milton Park.

Veronica Reynolds, Behavioural Change Advisor at Vectos, said: “A key aim of the Milton Park Travel Forum is to work closely with the Park’s business leaders to future-proof the park’s transport offer. This innovative new project builds on the work of that Forum and its vision to provide more and greener travel options. We would like to thank everyone at Milton Park for the support we have received to date which has undoubtedly contributed to the success in securing this project funding.”

Philip Campbell, Commercial Director for MEPC at Milton Park said: “Milton Park is at the heart of UK’s most fertile innovation economy and this project is about using technology developed by some of the best brains in the world to improve sustainable transport choice. The fruition of this project will give Milton Park occupiers better choice in their daily travel decisions and the chance to be amongst the first in the world to travel on autonomous shuttle vehicles for their everyday journeys.”

John Cotton, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “The funding will deliver an exciting regular commercial service, using innovative transport, to connect residents, visitors and workers to the surrounding business community based on Milton Park – one of the main principles in the Didcot Garden Town plan.”

Matthew Barber, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “Science Vale UK is already renowned for creating state-of-the-art technology and, along with our business partners, we are delighted to receive the Innovate UK grant that confirms our ambitions to establish the Science Vale at the forefront of bringing zero emission autonomous public transport to our region.”

About the delivery partners

The MultiCAV consortium comprises:

FirstGroup (overall coordination and project lead)
Arrival (manufacturer of electric vehicles)
Zipabout (MaaS system developers)
Milton Park (providers of infrastructure in business park
South Oxfordshire District Council (local planning authority)
Vale of White Horse District Council (local planning authority)
Oxfordshire County Council (local transport authority)
The University of the West of England (user evaluation)
Nova Modus (autonomous transport consultants)

This article first appeared on the website of Oxfordshire County Council on 26th February 2018.

City Council wins £1.7m to introduce Oxford’s first fully-electric double-decker buses

By: Oxford City Council


Oxford City Council has won £1.7m to introduce the first fully-electric double-decker buses to Oxford later this year.

The funding will retrofit five of the city’s open-top sightseeing buses to become fully electric, and retrofit 78 local buses to become significantly less polluting.

The electric buses are expected to be available later this year.

Oxford city centre currently has illegally-high levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which contributes to diseases including cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease.

2016 report found that outdoor air pollution causes around 40,000 deaths in the UK every year.

Across Oxford city centre, there has been a 36.9 per cent drop in NOlevels at roadside over the last decade.

A significant contributor to this reduction was the Low Emission Zone, which was introduced in Oxford city centre by Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council in 2014.

The zone, which was the first outside London, requires all Oxford buses to be low emission and meet the Euro V emission standard.

The £1.7m will retrofit 78 of Oxford’s buses to the Euro VI standard. This, alongside the fully-electric buses, is expected to significantly reduce NO2 levels across the city centre.

Oxford City Council won the £1.7m funding from the Department of Transport’s Clean Bus Technology Fund, which has given £40m to 20 local authorities to reduce bus emissions.

The City Council worked with the main local bus operators – Oxford Bus Company, which also owns City Sightseeing Oxford, and Stagecoach in Oxfordshire – on the funding bid. The operators will carry out the retrofitting.

The funding will be allocated over the next 15 months, with £938,910 given in 2017/18 and £724,020 in 2018/19. The retrofitting will be carried out on a rolling basis until April 2019.

In the 1990s, four electric Optare MetroRider minibuses were trialled in Oxford.

Despite the reduction in air pollution, latest monitoring data has found that NOlevels appear to have plateaued above the legal limits in some parts of the city. Between 2011 and 2013, average NO2 levels across the city centre fell by 18.9 per cent; but between 2014 and 2016 they fell by just 3.9 per cent.

To tackle this, last year the City and County Councils announced plans to introduce the world’s first Zero Emission Zone in Oxford city centre.

The zone will ban all emitting vehicles in phrases, starting with some vehicle types and a small number of streets in 2020 and, as vehicle technology develops, moves to all vehicle types across the whole city centre in 2035.

The new funding will support the implementation of the Zero Emission Zone, and will help reduce pollution in the city centre before 2020.

The City Council, supported by the County Council, also recently won £500,000 of Government funding to install charging points for electric taxis and £800,000 of Government funding to install 100 electric vehicle charging points for Oxford residents to support zone’s implementation.

The Government announced plans in July 2017 to ban all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040.

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “I am delighted that this grant will enable us to introduce fully-electric buses to Oxford. Currently Oxford has air pollution levels in the city centre which are above legal levels and therefore can damage the health of Oxford’s residents and visitors.

“We are looking at all measures possible to reduce pollution in our city centre. In recent years, nitrogen dioxide levels have remained fairly constant, so we need to take more radical measures to tackle this issue. The Zero Emission Zone is one such step change, but this will help us to achieve our goal of cleaner air.”

Oxford Bus Company Managing Director, Phil Southall, said: “This is excellent news for the city of Oxford and is the result of key stakeholders working together to unlock crucial Government funding for the wider benefit of the community we all serve. This is the first step in a long progress towards introducing ultra-low or zero emission buses more widely within Oxford.

“We are particularly pleased that we have been successful in our bid to upgrade five of our City Sightseeing Oxford Buses to full electric operation. These will allow us to gain experience of this developing technology.

 “As a bus operator we have always prided ourselves as being at the forefront of leading the UK on environmental technology innovation and over half of our buses are powered by hybrid technology. The new funding will enable us to take this even further.”

Martin Sutton, Managing Director of Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, said: “I am delighted that Oxford City Council’s bid has been successful.  

“Most of our buses on Oxford city routes are fairly new and are either electric hybrid powered or already comply with the latest emissions standards.

“This funding will enable us to upgrade the rest of our Oxford city fleet to the highest Euro 6 standard. As well as further reducing our NOx and other emissions, we hope to be able to persuade even more people to make cleaner, greener journeys by bus”

Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani said: “Buses and coaches are hugely important to those who rely on them and to the communities in which these people live and work.

“Road transport is going to change dramatically over the next couple of decades – and we have to make sure that the bus industry is ready to benefit from those changes.

“We have to move away from nose-to-tail car traffic at peak times, endless engine idling, stop-start travel and rising pollution and carbon emissions. Rather than contributing to the problem – buses and coaches very much form part of the solution.”

Environment Minister Therese Coffey said: “Poor air quality affects public health, the economy and the environment, which is why we are determined to do more.

“I am delighted to see so many high quality applications to the Clean Bus Technology Fund and, as a result, the government has decided to bring forward funding meaning that we will award nearly £40 million to retrofit more than 2,700 buses.

“This is another way which the government is delivering on its commitment to improving the environment within a generation and leave it in a better state than we found

This article first appeared on the Oxford City Council website on 9th February 2018