Ascendal Group and the University of Cambridge hold launch event for its new fully electric Universal service

September 29th, 2023

Ascendal Group and the University of Cambridge hold launch event for its new fully electric Universal service

Cambridge, UK – A new fleet of nine electric buses will operate on an extended Universal bus route from October, after the University of Cambridge and Whippet buses announced a new 8-year contract for the popular Cambridge service.

Subsidised by the University, but open to everyone, the U bus has been operating for 20 years. University staff and students use the service, as well as Eddington residents, sixth-form students, shoppers, tourists and key workers.

Professor Andy Neely, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations, said: “The U bus service supports growth and the local economy and is the only privately operated and funded fully electric bus service in the UK.

“The 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.”

Professor Ian Leslie, Chair of the University’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy Committee and Transport Working Group, said: “The Universal bus supports the university’s commitment to environmental sustainability, in particular sustainable business travel, as well as its work to meet the access requirements of all students.

“From the beginning of the new academic year (2 October 2023) the bus route will enable Girton, Homerton, Selwyn, Newnham and Wolfson Colleges to have more convenient access to the service, as well as buses now going to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (Addenbrooke’s site) at the weekends as well as on weekdays.”

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: “After many months of intensive effort, we are proud of the passenger-centric environment we have created on our new vehicles. 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.”

The standard single journey fare is £2, however University card holders (students and staff) can travel on the U bus for £1 per single trip. The new contract will provide a ‘split service’, with half of Universal buses serving Girton College at the northern end of the route, and half routed along Grange Road and Newnham Road to better serve Wolfson College, with some returning to Hills Road to connect with Homerton College and the Faculty of Education.

The new buses all have sustainability-themed names chosen from a selection of imaginative suggestions put forward by pupils at the University of Cambridge Primary School in Eddington. The bus names are: Bus Lightyear, Pollution Solution, Net-Zero Hero, Greenhopper, The Sustainable Hulk, The Peregreen Falcon, Eco Eddie, Lightning McGreen and The Green Clean Machine.

Featured (from left to right): Phil Hale, Roger Birch, Nicoletta Gennaro, Ed Cameron and Jonathan Ziebart.

For more information about the service or launch event, please visit the official University of Cambridge press release at

For any media enquiries, please contact Nicoletta Gennaro at