UK ‘on track’ to reach 4,000 zero emission bus pledge with £200m for another 1,000

The government says it is ‘on track’ to deliver on its promise of supporting the purchase of 4,000 zero-emission buses, with the announcement this morning of grants for 12 regions for electric or hydrogen-powered buses, as well as charging or fuelling infrastructure.

It brings it to the half-way stage with 2,000 funded in England so far, plus 600 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It comes as consultation launched on ending sale of all new non-zero emission buses from 2025 to 2032 opens today.

The funding comes from the Zero Emission Buses Regional Area (ZEBRA) scheme, launched last year to allow local transport authorities to bid for funding to purchase zero emission buses.

Today’s (26 March 2022) £198.3 million of funding will provide 943 buses. It builds on almost:

  • £71 million announced last year to support up to 335 new zero emission buses in 5 areas
  • A further £50 million funding for the UK’s first All Electric Bus City, Coventry, supporting up to 300 buses
  • 100 buses funded by previous funding schemes

The first orders have already been placed. Hundreds more zero emission buses have been funded in London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It means the government “remains on track to deliver its commitment to fund a total of 4,000 zero-emission buses across the country” – which Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised in 2020 to “drive forward the UK’s progress on its net zero ambitions” and to “build and rebuild those vital connections to every part of the UK”.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I will level up and clean up our transport network. That’s why I’ve announced hundreds of millions of pounds to roll out zero emission buses nationwide.

“Not only will this improve the experience of passengers, but it will help support our mission to fund 4,000 of these cleaner buses, reach net zero emissions by 2050 and build back greener.

“Today’s announcement is part of our National Bus Strategy, which will introduce lower fares, helping drive down the cost of public transport even further for passengers.”

The move is expected to remove over 57,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year from the country’s air, as well as 22 tonnes of nitrogen oxides on average each year, as government continues to go further and faster to achieve net zero, clean up the transport network and build back greener.

The areas whose business cases were approved and will be receiving funding. Details of the buses are yet to be released

It is also part of the government’s wider £3 billion National Bus Strategy to significantly improve bus services, with new priority lanes, lower and simpler fares, more integrated ticketing and higher frequencies.

Jobs in the bus manufacturing industry – based largely in Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England – will be supported as a result of the move. Zero-emission buses are also cheaper to run, improving the economics for bus operators.

Transport Minister Baroness Vere said: “We recognise the scale of the challenge the world faces in reaching net zero. That’s why reducing emissions and creating green jobs lies at the heart of our transport agenda.

“Today’s multi-million-pound investment is an enormous step towards a cleaner future, helping ensure transport is fit for generations to come and allowing millions of people to get around in a way that is kinder to our environment.”

Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Chief Executive, said: “We welcome today’s announcement, which will complement the significant investment and initiatives by operators as we work together to transition to a zero emission bus fleet and help the country achieve its net zero ambitions.

“Stagecoach has already started its journey towards our target of a fully zero emission UK bus fleet by 2035, and there is also a major opportunity to deliver cleaner air by people switching to more sustainable public transport, cycling and walking.

“Britain’s buses have an exciting future ahead, helping decarbonise the country, as well as driving economic recovery and levelling up our communities.”

Government funding of Transport for London has supported the introduction of 300 zero emission in London. Around 600 zero emission buses have been funded in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as a result of the block grant to the devolved administrations.

The government has also today launched a public consultation seeking views on setting a specific date between 2025 and 2032 for ending the sale of new non-zero emission (at the tailpipe) buses.

This would mean that, from 2032 at the very latest, the sale of all new buses, powered either in part, or totally, by an internal combustion engine would cease to be allowed.

Any new buses sold from that date would need to be fully zero-emission at the tail pipe and the end of sales would apply across the whole of the UK.

Such a move would bolster the market for zero-emission buses, making them the default choice for operators to transition sooner.

Calls for evidence will also be launched today on ending the sale of new non-zero emission coaches and minibuses, allowing evidence to be gathered on the challenges to moving to a zero-emission fleet, and what an appropriate end of sales date might be.

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