Stagecoach has announced the introduction of a fleet of 40 hybrid electric vehicles to Britain’s busiest regional bus route in Manchester. The 192 route, which carries nearly ten million passengers a year, connects Manchester city centre with Stockport and Hazel Grove.

High frequency services run up to every two minutes at peak times and the Stagecoach route will be served entirely by hybrid electric buses. The investment follows confirmation from the Department for Transport today of several successful bids for part-funding of new low carbon vehicles from its Green Bus Fund.

A fleet of 19 hybrid electric vehicles will also be introduced by Stagecoach on its Sheffield 52 route. This carries around three million passengers a year, connecting the densely populated suburbs of Hillsborough, Crookes, Attercliffe, Darnall and Woodhouse.

Stagecoach is investing a total £12.2m in the new greener buses for Manchester and Sheffield, matched by a grant of £4.6m from the Green Bus Fund. The new vehicles are expected to go into service in early 2013.

A total of 123 hybrid electric buses are already in operation in Stagecoach’s regional bus operations in several English cities – Manchester (50), Oxford (26), Newcastle (26) and Sheffield (21). A further 19 hybrid electric buses will go into service in Stagecoach networks in Scotland this summer.

Les Warneford, managing director of Stagecoach UK Bus, said, “This latest multi-million pound investment will make the busiest bus route in Britain also the greenest. The new buses are great news for bus passengers in Manchester and in Sheffield. They will also support these two cities in the drive to get people out of their cars and improve local air quality.

“Stagecoach is leading the way in investing in buses with this state of the art technology. We are also committed to providing local communities with high quality, good value bus travel. With sky high fuel prices and the increasing cost of running a car, it makes more sense than ever to switch to greener, smarter bus travel.”

UK-based manufacturer Alexander Dennis will supply Stagecoach with 59 of the Enviro 400H double-decker buses, which incorporate regenerative braking technology. The 192 route in Manchester is part of Greater Manchester’s first Statutory Quality Bus Partnership Scheme (SQP). It involves a joint commitment by Stagecoach, Transport for Greater Manchester, Manchester City Council and Stockport Council to take steps to help reduce congestion, improve punctuality and deliver better air quality. The new vehicles will replace existing low emissions vehicles, bringing the number of Stagecoach hybrid electric buses in Manchester to 90.