All-electric bus town bids open
Local authorities can now apply to become the UK’s first all-electric bus town.
The winning area will receive up to £50m from the government to help pay for a brand-new fleet of electric buses, reducing emissions and cleaning up the air in their community. The town selected will be used as a model to help deliver the Government’s ambition for all buses to be fully electric by 2025. A town with 200 electric buses could save around 7,400 tonnes of CO2 each year, according to the government.
The £50m fund is part of a total £170m allocated to improve services and make bus journeys greener, easier and more reliable. This commitment marks the next step in delivering the government’s £220 million package to overhaul bus services across England and level up transport infrastructure.
Government is also making it easier and more convenient to take the bus through a new £20m fund to encourage the development and trial of on-demand ride sharing services in rural and suburban areas.
A further £30 million of extra funding for local authorities in 2020 to 2021 has been confirmed today, to help them improve current bus services or restore those that have been lost. Every local authority in England, outside of London, is eligible for this funding.
Passengers will also benefit from new low-fare, high-frequency “Superbus” networks to increase the frequency of services by investing in bus lanes and other priority measures. The first will be introduced in Cornwall next year, where the network will be integrated with the county’s main railway line.
Investments are also being made to speed up bus journeys. As part of the first tranche of the £2.5 billion Transforming Cities Fund, Derby and Nottingham, the North East, Portsmouth and Southampton will see the deployment of bus priority traffic lights to speed up trips to the city centres.
The Government announced last year that it plans to launch the UK’s first-ever long-term bus strategy and long-term funding plan, to ensure that buses are prioritised into the future.
Commenting on the funding, Confederation of Passenger Transport Chief Executive, Graham Vidler, said: “This is excellent news for bus passengers. Buses account for around half of all public transport journeys and are vital in getting people to work, school or college or connecting with family and friends. Today’s announcement will mean more local authorities and operators working together to deliver real improvements for passengers.
“This funding must be the beginning, rather than the end, of transforming bus services across our country. To truly make an impact in connecting communities and tackling the climate emergency the forthcoming national bus strategy must have reducing congestion at its core to deliver the quicker journeys that will encourage people to leave their car at home and take the bus. Our target of a 20% increase in passenger numbers over the next decade will save two million tonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere.
“We all need to build on today’s announcement and ensure this opportunity is not squandered.”
Wrightbus Executive Chairman, Jo Bamford, also responded to the announcement: “Wrightbus welcomes the Government’s announcement today that they are delivering on their pledge to invest in Britain’s bus network. This funding announcement is a clear demonstration of the Government’s commitment to creating a modern bus network, fit for the needs of modern passengers.
“Wrightbus is committed to delivering world class battery electric and hydrogen electric vehicles both for the UK and export markets. Whilst there is a role for sustainable fuels of all types, hydrogen buses offer particular advantages, especially on longer-distance routes and they require much less new and complex infrastructure or behavioural change from bus operators.
“Given this exciting potential, we urge the Government to consider the advantages of basing their planned all-electric bus town on hydrogen-electric technologies, an industrial sector on which Britain can lead the world.”
Claire Walters, Chief Executive of Bus Users, welcomed the announcement as a positive first step: “Despite being the most used form of public transport, bus services have been decimated over the past few decades.
“Reliable and accessible bus services benefit everyone, and today’s announcement will certainly help to improve services. However, the only way to encourage more people on board and make buses the best choice in green transport is through bus prioritisation measures, and that has to be part of a wider, long-term bus strategy.”
Not all were happy with the announcement. Trade union RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash, said: “This funding does not come close to restoring the millions cut from bus services across the UK since 2010 and despite these massive cuts the private bus companies have continued to pay out hundreds of millions in dividends to shareholders.
“It’s crystal clear that the privatisation and deregulation of the bus industry has failed and rather than paper over the cracks this Government needs to introduce a national bus strategy underpinned by serious investment and public ownership.”
Unite national officer for passenger transport, Bobby Morton, said: “The money being pledged for the creation and the reinstatement of bus routes is an absolute drop in the ocean, compared to what has been cut from bus services.
“Unite would welcome any initiative to reduce emissions but an announcement to make buses electric by 2025 is a unachievable gimmick, as there has been no investment in the infrastructure needed for recharging entire fleets of buses.
“Passengers need to be aware that while ‘uber style’ bus services sound attractive, journeys will be very expensive and could result in vulnerable customers being priced out of services or unable to arrange journeys, creating increased problems of isolation for many communities.
“Bus services are essential for the travelling public getting to work, accessing shops and visiting friends and family, it is vital that that there is proper long-term investment in bus services and not one off publicity seeking stunts which simply don’t address the needs of bus users.”