News and Updates

Categories: Community, Development

27 September 2023

New Universal electric bus fleet and service is launched

A new fleet of electric buses will operate on an extended Universal bus route from October 2023 after the University of Cambridge and Whippet buses announced a new eight-year contract for the popular Cambridge service.

Subsidised by the University, but open to everyone, the Universal, also known as the U bus provides opportunities for the community to benefit from sustainable travel modes, connecting Eddington as a new neighbourhood in Cambridge to a range of local destinations, most notably the city centre, Cambridge railway station and Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

Andy Neely, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations and member of the University of Cambridge Property Board, said: “The Universal bus service has bucked the national trend by exceeding pre-COVID ridership levels this year. 2022/23 has been the busiest year ever on the Universal bus with more than 719,000 passengers.  The service supports growth and the local economy and is the only privately operated and funded, fully electric bus service in the UK.”

From 2 October 2023, the Universal will be extended to help more people to conveniently access it and it will offer split routes, reaching a number of additional communities and University colleges such as Girton, Homerton, Selwyn, Newnham and Wolfson.

At the northern part of the route, half of the buses will extend to Huntingdon Road, Girton, and be known as the U1 service. In the west of the city, half of the buses will continue along Grange Road and into Barton Road on the U2 service. Both the U1 and U2 serve all of the existing main destinations such as Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Cambridge railway station, Trumpington Street, Silver Street, University Library, Cambridge West and Eddington.

Jonathan Ziebart, Managing Director at Ascendal UK, parent company to Whippet, said: “The University’s latest investment will see a fleet of fully electric buses, offering cutting-edge technology and innovative safety features to provide a truly premium travel experience. Some of the key features include a state-of-the-art Camera Monitoring System replacing the need for wing mirrors. In parallel, we will be cascading our former Universal buses across Whippet’s local bus network, helping to improve passenger experience whilst lowering emissions.

Nicoletta Gennaro, Group Head of Marketing and Customer Experience for Ascendal, said: “We have dedicated special attention to customer experience, providing our passengers with high-quality vegan leather seats, and other features such as wireless charging, stop buttons on each seat, and high-quality WiFi.”

A state of the art fleet

The striking nine new high specification buses feature the very latest safety features on board that aid drivers such as an AI-assisted hazard detection system, as well as state-of-the-art CCTV and information screens to make the passenger experience more informative and safer.

New black ‘pleather’ seats with blue stitching and the U logo, along with wifi, USB sockets, more convenient push buttons, phone holders/wireless chargers and larger, lower windows will make passenger journeys more comfortable.

Supporting sustainable journeys

The Eddington community was treated to an exclusive behind-the-scenes preview at the Sustainable YOU event in early September and the buses were named in a highly creative competition by pupils from the University of Cambridge Primary School in Summer with all of the chosen names for the fleet inspired by its green credentials.

University card holders (students and staff) can travel on the U bus for £1 per single trip. For all others, the standard single journey fare is £2.

Further service updates can be found on the Universal Timetable or view the route map.

Universal bus
Phone charging and stop buttons located conveniently for passengers
Universal bus interior
Universal bus routes from October 2023
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