Pan-industry grand coalition urges government to speed up zero-emission bus rollout

A ‘grand coalition’ representing bus operators, local authorities, manufacturers and workers has called on the Government to speed up its zero emission bus rollout or risk missing key targets.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury the signatories call for the Government to use the forthcoming Spending Review to set out a clear roadmap to deliver significantly more buses on an accelerated timetable and ensure funding reflects the full costs of zero emission vehicle purchase and installation of infrastructure.

The Government has so far only provided funding to support the delivery of 900 buses, well short of the Prime Minister’s 4,000 target for February 2025. The letter warns that without a long-term roadmap meeting the Prime Minister’s pledge will be extremely challenging and the wider transition to zero emission buses more problematic.

“Continuing to fund zero-emission buses via sporadic funding pots which local authorities have to waste time and resources competing for is yesterday’s solution to an urgent problem of today”

Jonathan Bray, Director, Urban Transport Group

The letter comes after industry financial analyst Chris Cheek, speaking on the ITT Hub ‘Lunch with Leon’ podcast said: “The the government has all these wonderful aspirations but doesn’t really have any idea of what’s involved.

“There is no prospect of the sort of money that we would need to see to achieve what they want in the National Bus Strategy.”

Commenting on the letter Graham Vidler, CEO of operators’ trade body CPT says: “Operators are committed to transitioning to zero emission fleets, but this requires long-term planning, especially around infrastructure requirements.

“By setting out a fully funded, long-term plan the Government will give all those involved the confidence to invest meaning we can make progress towards the shared goal of decarbonising fleets as cost effectively as possible.

“Without it the industry and wider supply chain has to react to short term uncoordinated funding announcements risking missed targets, increased costs and ultimately a bigger bill for taxpayers.”

Commenting on the letter Urban Transport Group Director Jonathan Bray says: “An accelerated, long-term and funded plan for the decarbonisation of the UK’s bus fleet will create good green jobs and make a vital contribution to the urgent task of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from urban transport. 

“Continuing to fund zero emission buses via sporadic funding pots which local authorities have to waste time and resources competing for is yesterday’s solution to an urgent problem of today.

“Instead we need a coordinated and funded plan (which encompasses both the vehicles and the supporting green energy infrastructure) to give the decarbonisation of the bus fleet the same priority that the Government is giving to decarbonising cars.”

The letter also highlighted the benefits to the zero-emission transition and wider climate change goals of delivering the roadmap alongside a range of measures to encourage people to switch journeys from car to bus. 

Mr Vidler continued: “Measures such as a pro-public transport message and investment in speeding up bus journeys will help government funding go further as operators see increases in fare revenue. By making bus travel more attractive we will also help reduce the number of cars on our road, which is crucial if we want to meet our challenging climate change targets.” 

The Confederation of Passenger Transport is the national trade body for bus and coach operators across the UK.

The signatories to the letter are:

  • Graham Vidler, Chief Executive, Confederation of Passenger Transport
  • Paul Davies, President and Managing Director, Alexander Dennis Limited
  • Buta Atwal, Chief Executive, Wrightbus
  • Robert Drewery, Commercial Director, Switch Mobility
  • Steve Turner, Assistant General Secretary Manufacturing, Unite the Union
  • Jonathan Bray, Director, Urban Transport Group

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