The coach industry has the opportunity to influence the date for the end of new diesel coach sales, and also the new infrastructure needed for zero-emission coaches.
Speaking at the UK Coach Association (UKCOA) conference in Farnborough on Tuesday (8 March), hosted by ITT Hub, Transport Minister Baroness Vere said: “With each different type of vehicle, we’re working with the sector to work out what is achievable.
“There is absolutely no point in us setting targets that are not achievable, and that have not been set in full consultation with the sector itself.”
The move was welcomed by UKCOA President Stephen Telling (pictured), who told the conference that the industry had a unique opportunity to help the government frame its strategy.
Unlike sales of new cars and vans, with diesel/petrol only models banned from 2030 (some hybrids will still be allowed), with all sales required to be zero-emission by 2035, no timescales have yet been set for the coach, bus and HGV sectors.
However, the Government has pledged to end the sale of all new, non-zero-emission road vehicles by 2040. That’s everything from motorcycles to buses, coaches and HGVs, subject to consultation.
The government has committed to a binding target for the UK to be ‘net-zero’ by 2050.
As keynote speaker at UKCOA’s ‘Future-proofing for Coach Operators for zero-emsission Fleets Conference’, the Minister revealed that a ‘call for evidence’ ahead of a consultation, will be made to coach operators shortly.
“We will be consulting on coaches in particular, because they are not the same as bus, bus is different.”
“There is absolutely no point in us setting targets that are not achievable, and that have not been set in full consultation with the sector itself”Baroness Vere, Transport Minister,
Issuing a call to action for coach operators she said: “You might want to think about your response to the call for evidence.
“I understand there is an inter-relationship between the call for evidence on decarbonisation: issues relating to air quality, issues relating to accessibility, issues relating to the type of fuel you currently use – might use in the interim, and in the future – issues relating to the type of vehicles that look sensible for coach decarbonisation.”
Answering questions from the audience, the Minister also revealed that the DfT is now to look at accessibility issues (PSVAR) in parallel with zero-emission coaches, something that it has previously rejected.
“I’m very interested in what hydrogen might be able to do, in terms of quicker refuelling, more range. But we’re also slightly at the behest of how technology develops as well.
“So there’s quite a lot of uncertainty. But trust me, I know, I think that too.
“The point is, when we experience these real moments of uncertainty, the only way to work through is to think about the challenges together.
“[We must] work together to develop a plan that understands that uncertainty, provides us with the flexibility that we need, however, we need to make sure that everybody is pointing in the right direction.”
Turning to infrastructure she said: “It’s very well having the vehicles but if you can’t charge them, or you can’t refuel them, then it isn’t going to work.”
She called on the coach sector to “prioritise, think about things that you want to be able to send back to the government when we do the call for evidence to make sure that we get the all the views and all of the different issues, and then we will work together to try and resolve them.”
Concluding, she said: “I think there is a huge opportunity ahead for the coach sector. I’m very, very keen to make sure that there are as few challenges as possible (that are government enforced) to your businesses and your operations.”