WHITEHALL has agreed to pay £6.9m to subsidise a fleet of 32 electric buses in Manchester.

The Department for Transport announced yesterday that the initiative is one of the biggest winners in the first tranche of funding announced under the Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme, which is aimed at cutting emissions and ensuring cleaner and greener journeys.

Stagecoach will invest £9.6m in the, which is backed by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, Transport for Greater Manchester and other key organisations.

The combined investment of £16.5m will deliver a new fleet of zero emissions buses and associated infrastructure over the next two years.

The first of the planned double-decker e-buses are expected to go into service later in 2019, delivering a massive boost to local air quality and UK manufacturing, with the new fleet fully in place by early 2020.

New Enviro400 EV City vehicles, each with a range of up to 190 miles and capacity to carry around 80 passengers, would be built by the UK's leading electric bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis.

Transforming the air quality in Greater Manchester is one part of a wider multi-million-pound partnership developed by bus operators to change the region's bus network.

Elisabeth Tasker, managing director of Stagecoach Manchester, said: "We are delighted to have won government backing for our plans to help transform Greater Manchester's bus network with one of the biggest single investments in e-bus technology anywhere in Europe.

"Our plans will put Greater Manchester at the forefront of the drive to improve local air quality, and help cement Britain's position as global leader in manufacturing low-emission vehicles. It is also part of our wider partnership proposals to maximise the potential of the bus network to drive the region's economy and better connect its communities.

"By working together, bus operators, the mayor and the region's local authorities can deliver the quick and sustained improvements we all want to see in Greater Manchester's bus network, building on the major progress we've already made with investments in areas such as on board Wi-Fi, contactless ticketing and live journey information."

Stagecoach's plans will see the new e-buses - which would replace conventional Euro 3 and Euro 4 vehicles - based at its Sharston depot. Major charging infrastructure will allow buses to be charged simultaneously, enabling a 24 hour-a-day operation.

The e-bus fleet will operate two key high frequency services connecting Manchester city centre, Manchester Airport, five hospitals and two universities. It will also complement recent public investment in bus priority measures in the south of the city.

The introduction of new electric buses will enable the cascade of existing low-carbon emissions vehicles onto two routes serving the same corridor. This will allow the removal of older buses that comply with previous emissions standards, delivering a further improvement in overall emissions.

The buses will be introduced in the autumn of 2019, after the infrastructure works scheduled for completion by the summer. The new e-bus fleet for Greater Manchester offers a 62% improvement in CO2 emissions over the latest low-carbon emission buses and supports the region's Air Quality Action Plan. Overall, the initiative will save 920,000 litres of diesel a year, reduce annual CO2 by 2,400 tonnes, and cut NOx emissions by 9% and particulates by 7% across the fleet.