ONE bus service between an East Lancs town and Preston could go electric as part of a £15.7m public transport bid.

County Hall chiefs have made a pitch for cash from the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) Fund.

The number three Stagecoach service between Longridge and Preston would benefit if the approach is successful.

Around half a dozen other Stagecoach and Preston Bus services are included in the remainder of the bid for central and north Lancashire.

County council cabinet members heard the vehicles can be up to 25 per cent more expensive than traditional diesel-driven versions.

A ZEBRA grant would cover three-quarters of that additional cost – and the same proportion of the bill for the new charging infrastructure required.  The operators would stump up the remainder.

In what will be the second round of ZEBRA funding, the government has said it will prioritise bids from rural transport authorities – and reserve between £25m and £50m from the total £129m pot for those council areas.

Although large parts of Lancashire are rural, the bus routes included in the county council’s submission mean the authority would not be eligible for that ringfenced share of the cash and will instead be considered in the second priority category, which covers those areas that did not receive any funding from the first allocations round.

Bids will be accepted only for new buses, not the retrofitting of vehicles already on the road.  Biogas and biofuel buses are also ineligible for funding as part of the initiative.

Hydrogen-powered buses could be supported by ZEBRA, but because they are at an early stage of development – and so would probably not meet the scheme’s minimum value-for-money criteria –   they would have to prove “a genuine learning and innovation opportunity”, the Department for Transport says.

All vehicles funded by the ZEBRA scheme must meet “enhanced accessibility standards”.  Those that carry 22 or more passengers have to provide an extra flexible space – in addition to the legally required wheelchair space – that can be used either by a second wheelchair or for at least two unfolded pushchairs or prams.

ZEBRA-backed buses for 17 or more passengers have to feature an induction loop to allow travellers using a hearing aid to communicate more easily with the driver, while vehicles of any size must carry a ramp or feature a lift to support disabled passengers getting on and off.

County transport boss Cllr Rupert Swarbrick, said local authorities had been asked to co-ordinate funding bids because “we know our bus companies better than [the government does]”.

Successful bidders will be announced in March and vehicles funded by the scheme must be purchased by January 2025.