August 05 2020

Paul Davies, President & Managing Director, Alexander Dennis Limited, writes about the vital need for governments to invest in green vehicles, so we can deliver clean air agendas and build a better future for the next generations.

Clean buses are essential to a sustainable future, and only a vibrant British bus manufacturing industry can continue to meet the needs of the country. At the start of the year, it seemed that the tide had turned for buses with the Prime Minister’s pledge of 4,000 zero emission buses, the promise of a National Bus Strategy and investment in bus priority across the constituent nations of the UK allowing buses to support wider objectives for a sustainable future.

Since then, much has changed but the objectives remain: climate change makes it imperative to advance decarbonisation, improved air quality saves lives, and only by delivering modal shift can our towns and cities be freed from the stranglehold of congestion.

New buses can help to deliver on all of the above – yet the bus manufacturing industry is facing its biggest ever threat.

With passenger numbers depressed as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic, operators do not currently have the financial means to reinvest in their fleets. Bus manufacturers like ourselves have not received any meaningful new orders since March which creates a significant challenge when we need a steady demand to keep the lights on, to support investment in R&D, our people and supply chain, and partake in the nation’s green recovery.

Now is the time for central and devolved governments to follow up on their promises and invest in stimulating the demand needed to sustain a sector of the economy that is vital to building a better future for the next generations.

Unlocking the funding for 4,000 clean buses will allow Alexander Dennis and other UK manufacturers to get to work immediately on delivering for the country. Drawing on over a decade of continuous investment in clean bus technologies we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2 million tonnes.

Manufacturers and bus operators have worked collaboratively with CPT to develop a leasing model that will combine corporate or private finance with government funding to ensure the UK does not lose momentum in greening the bus fleet. There is much solidarity across the bus and coach industry but despite that we are on the brink of being forced to take decisions which could permanently scar the manufacturing capability of a vibrant domestic industry with a proud track record of innovation. The return to some level of demand would bring much-needed stability to reduce the threat to 10,000 skilled jobs and apprenticeships within the bus manufacturing sector and extended supply chain.

By ensuring UK bus manufacturing continues to be able to meet the country’s needs, we will be ready to help deliver the clean air agendas.