It was the world’s leading rail town and has since become famous for car production.
And now Swindon could make its name with a new bus fleet.
The borough council has teamed up with Swindon’s Bus Company and Stagecoach West in a bid for £50m to transform public transport in the borough.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced a competition for one local authority to be given the cash to set the ‘gold standard’ for greener bus travel.
If Swindon wins, its two main bus companies will be able to buy a new fleet of electric buses. This could be as many as 200 of them, removing 7,400 tonnes of CO2 from the town’s air – the equivalent of 3,700 fewer diesel cars on the road.
Cabinet member for transport and the environment Maureen Penny said: “I am determined with the help of my cabinet colleagues that we do all we can to improve air quality in Swindon. It is one of the reasons why we have set up a climate change working group.
“So when the government presented the Electric Bus Town scheme, it ticked a lot of boxes. I was extremely impressed to see one of Salisbury Reds’ electric buses in action and to find out about all their environmental benefits.
“We will be putting everything we can into this bid with the help of Swindon’s Bus Company and Stagecoach West to give us the best chance of obtaining the £50m in funding.”
Swindon’s Bus Company managing director Andrew Wickham added: “We are working closely with Swindon Borough Council to gain government support for this very important initiative.
“We have received an excellent response from those travelling on our electric buses in Salisbury, with our customers appreciating our efforts to help lower emissions across the region.
“Buses – especially electric buses – are the perfect solution for this, and they have the potential to significantly improve air quality in our towns and cities. I’m looking forward to working with the council to help make the Electric Bus Town proposal a reality here in Swindon.”
Stagecoach West managing director Rupert Cox said: “Buses are key to helping to improve our local environment and reduce the effects of congestion. An investment in electric buses could transform bus services in Swindon by enabling zero pollution at the point of use.
“This could further encourage people to leave their car at home so that they could travel in a far more environmentally friendly way.”
The council and bus operators will first submit an expression of interest to the government by the end of April and the shortlisted bids will be announced the following month.
Business cases will then be submitted between the summer and autumn.
Bus operator Salisbury Reds, owned by the Swindon company’s parent firm Go South Coast, is already running three electric buses which serve the city’s two park and ride schemes.
The bus company recently showed off one of them to Coun Penny and her cabinet colleagues Keith Williams and Cathy Martyn.
Each electric bus can travel approximately 160 miles on one full charge and it takes four hours to charge the batteries. One electric bus will save 15.5 tonnes of Nitrogen Oxide and 32.2 tonnes of CO2 per year.