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On the road to a national zero emission bus fleet

17 September 2021
On the road to a national zero emission bus fleet

The vast majority of people now recognise the urgency of tackling climate change and air pollution, and the Government has committed to ensuring transport plays its part in reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants harmful to our health and the planet’s.

Of course buses are already one of the greenest ways to travel, responsible for only three per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions from transport (cars are responsible for 55 per cent), but they are set to become even greener with the switch to zero emission vehicles. Cleaner, more modern buses with better wheelchair access and added extras like USB charge points help to make buses a more attractive way to travel and encourage more people to choose the bus, and of course zero emission buses also help tackle air pollution.

But a shift to cleaner vehicles by itself will not be sufficient to meet the Government’s carbon reduction targets or clean up the air in our towns and cities. Reducing overall vehicle use with a shift away from private cars and towards public transport is also needed. As the main form of public transport – more than twice as many journeys are made by bus as rail – increasing local bus use is central to achieving this objective, as well as reducing congestion. Remember just one double decker bus can carry up to 75 passengers, that’s potentially 75 fewer cars on the road with each bus journey, good news for everyone.

The Government’s National Bus Strategy aims to both increase bus use and accelerate the adoption of zero emission vehicles, but it relies on local authorities and operators working together to deliver a better and greener bus network. We know that buses have been in decline for decades – our annual Buses in Crisis research highlighted the year on year fall in funding and services – and that many local authorities no longer have the capacity or capability to deliver these objectives on their own. That’s why we held a Zero Emission Buses Summit in conjunction with the Mayor of London to bring together representatives from local and central government, bus manufacturers and energy providers and to discuss how we can all cooperate in bringing transformational change faster to our towns, cities and rural areas.

In London, the Mayor has announced that all new buses will now be zero emission, bringing forward the capital’s target of a fully zero-emission bus network by three years to 2034. This pledge has been made possible because London is uniquely placed due to the size of its bus fleet – up a third to half of all new bus orders in the UK in any given year are for the capital – allowing manufacturers to up production levels and driving down overall costs for other operators. This move will help ensure that other areas of the country can benefit from zero emission buses in the same way the capital will.

Our recent research with local authorities looking at how they plan to deliver on the aims of the National Bus Strategy showed that delivering the Government’s target for zero emission buses was one area where many authorities felt they lacked the necessary skills and knowledge. That’s why London’s commitment to a full zero emission fleet and today’s Summit are so important. Only by sharing knowledge and skills and working together can we achieve the clean, affordable and regular bus network the country needs to ensure more people use buses and leave their cars at home. That’s good news for the economy, communities and the environment.

Watch a recording of our Zero Emission Bus Summit (starts at 12:34 minutes)

Photo above: courtesy of City Hall