October 06 2021

This week’s blog post is by our Head of Policy Alison Edwards. Alison writes about why government must speed up the rollout of 4,000 zero emission buses to meet key climate change targets.

Fewer journeys by car and more journeys by bus are crucial to meeting climate change targets. Recently CPT along with other organisations wrote to the transport secretary and chief secretary to the treasury calling on them to speed up the rollout of 4,000 zero emission buses.

In February 2020 the government pledged to deliver the 4,000 buses by February 2025. To date there has only been enough funding to deliver 900 of these buses, and currently only 50 of them are on the road. The pace that the buses are being rolled out is simply not fast enough and jeopardises the UK’s legally-binding target of net zero emissions by 2050.

We have called on government to set out a long-term funding plan in the upcoming Spending Review that will set out how we can deliver 4,000 zero emission buses and the infrastructure needed to support them. The current system of rewarding funding is uncoordinated and it is not clear when the next funding announcement will be made. Local authorities and bus operators often have to put forward business proposals at short notice and if unsuccessful, have to repeat the process again when the next round of funding is made available. A long-term funding plan will provide a clear timeline allowing sufficient time to put business proposals together and clarity over when we can expect zero emission buses to be delivered.

Alongside a long-term plan we need to see government taking steps to get people on board the bus. Investing in zero emission buses is an important part of the journey to net zero, but for the investments to be worthwhile we need people to choose to travel by bus rather than going by car. A pro-public transport message from government combined with investment in priority measures that keep buses out of traffic and speed up journey times are necessary to reduce the number of cars on our roads and achieve this change in travel behaviour.

Speeding up the rollout of zero emission buses has the wider impact of supporting the UK’s economic recovery from Covid-19. The UK’s bus manufacturing industry supports 10,000 skilled jobs and apprentices, and with a clear long-term strategy set out, the industry can invest in new jobs and training opportunities.

COP26 is just around the corner and all eyes are on the UK to lead the way in setting out how to reach net zero. Government has the opportunity to make it clear when we can expect to see zero emission buses on our roads, and set out a bold vision for decarbonisation.