Double-digit declines in registrations

Bus and coach registrations declined 58.5% in the first quarter of 2021, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The registration figures show the weakest start to any year on record, with only 582 buses and coaches joining UK roads in the first three months of 2021 (records go back to 1996). SMMT cited significantly reduced demand during nationwide lockdowns combined with a longer term challenge of declining ridership as the reason behind the low figure.

The entire sector saw double-digit declines, with single-deck buses and coaches most affected by prolonged closures, down 72.6% to just 91 vehicles registered. Meanwhile, the largest segment, minibuses weighing more than 3.5 tonnes, saw a decline of 59.2% to just 384 vehicles, and double-deck bus and coach registrations dropped 17.7% to 107 vehicles.

Bus ridership was most impacted by the coronavirus closures of 2020, with traffic down 32% in the year, according to DfT figures.

“It is devastating but unsurprising that the bus and coach sector has continued to suffer well into 2021″ – Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “It is devastating but unsurprising that the bus and coach sector has continued to suffer well into 2021, with no sign of recovery yet. Battling with long term declines in passenger numbers and the nationwide lockdown measures brought about by the pandemic, has resulted in plummeting registrations. The sector urgently needs a boost in operator confidence to restore order books before we can even to begin to talk about recovery. Given that the UK needs to replace at least 4,000 vehicles a year as they retire from service, we are dangerously at risk of a bus shortage at a time when public transport will be needed most as businesses return to work.”

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