The Go-Ahead Group has been awarded a 15-year contract worth £110 million by Kent County Council to operate Kent’s aFastrack bus rapid transit system.
Under the contract, the group’s Go-Ahead London division will operate the service from November 2024. Existing buses will replaced with a zero emission, electric fleet on the network, which runs in the Dartford, Bluewater, Ebbsfleet and Gravesham area.
The network provides essential access to jobs, education, healthcare and shopping in an area of rapid economic growth which is undergoing significant regeneration.
Go-Ahead is in talks to deploy a fleet of 28 brand new Irizar ie Trams on the network, powered by inverted electric pantograph technology. The distinctive, eye-catching vehicles feature leather seats, USB chargers, Wifi, braille buttons, luggage racks and real-time passenger information. Similar vehicles are already in operation on Go-Ahead London routes in south-east London.
Kent Fastrack provides a frequent ‘turn up and go’ service with a reliable journey time, providing a real alternative to the car for local journeys. A high proportion of its routes run on dedicated busways, avoiding traffic congestion.
The contract will add 100 staff to The Go-Ahead Group, which has prioritised expansion in the UK bus and passenger transport market under its Next Billion Journeys strategy. Go-Ahead intends to use its award-winning transport apprenticeship scheme to recruit for Fastrack.
Christian Schreyer, Chief Executive, The Go-Ahead Group, said: “Kent’s Fastrack network is a fantastic blueprint for the future of bus travel, on dedicated busways away from traffic congestion. Go-Ahead will make this a zero-emission service and will deploy comfortable, modern, state-of-the-art ieTrams to enhance passengers’ journeys.”
Shane Hymers, Fastrack Development Manager at Kent County Council added: “Fastrack is the jewel in the crown of Kent’s bus network and our intention with this new contract was always to achieve the best possible outcome for our users, securing the highest quality service proposed to us. Another key agenda was to transform Fastrack into a zero-emission operation, improving out footprint in Kent Thameside.
“Following KCC’s successful bid for DfT ZEBRA funding, we’ve been able to make this a reality. We’re delighted to embark on this 15-year partnership with Go-Ahead and I can’t wait to see the next generation of Fastrack come to fruition in 2024.’
Cllr David Brazier, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport at Kent County Council commented: “Our flagship Fastrack Bus Rapid Transit service is a singular tool designed to enable continued economic development and sustainable regeneration in Kent, crucially helping to prevent unacceptable traffic congestion in and around the key traffic interchange, The Dartford Crossing.
“Fastrack’s new zero-emission fleet will further improve air quality and visibly set the trend for local communities and other industries. Through the National Bus Strategy, Kent County Council is working even closer with our bus operators, and it is only through these strong partnerships that we can achieve the bold ambitions that we have set for ourselves. We look forward to welcoming Go-Ahead to Kent.”
(Picture – Go-Ahead)