Million more passengers potential with green buses, says Stagecoach

Switch to zero-emission buses could attract more onboard, says operator’s report

More than one million new passengers could be attracted to use the UK’s bus networks through the switch to zero emission buses, according to a report published by Stagecoach.

The independent research and recommendations build on Stagecoach’s target of achieving a 100% Zero Emission UK bus fleet by 2035 and are designed to support all bus operators in achieving this ambition as well as supporting the country’s Net Zero targets.

Looking at the challenge by focussing on the people who interact most with the bus network – both the public and the workforce – the ‘Road map to zero’ report identifies the scale of the opportunity that electric buses present, showing how they can attract a new generation of bus users. Over a million current non-bus users across the UK say they would start to use services if electric buses were introduced in their local area, as long as fares and frequency remain the same. Over nine million current passengers would expect to use the bus more often.

The research shows that almost one in five people interviewed in the East of England would use the bus more if Zero Emission Buses replaced local diesel buses, with two thirds of people wanting to see their local bus company move to using only ZEBs.

The report highlights the significant operational and commercial challenges that all UK bus operators need overcome to achieve this, including:

  • Upgrading infrastructure across the country, electrifying all vehicles and depots, recognising the increased space and longer charging times that ZEBs will require.
  • Upskilling the workforce and attracting a new generation of people to highly skilled, green jobs in the bus industry.
  • Developing a long-term sustainable funding approach which reflects the increased costs of a ZEB compared to a diesel bus.

The report claims getting the transition wrong could have significant consequences for passengers and the sustainability of the bus network. Independent polling carried out as part of the report shows that if fares were to increase by just 10% to fund the transition to Zero Emissions Buses, more than 12 million passengers nationally say they would use the bus less often, with 63% in the East of England agreeing with this stance. If the introduction of greener buses failed to improve either punctuality, frequency or passenger experience, over 14.5 million people would be left disappointed.

Other findings of the research suggest 66% of the public think that the move to Zero Emission Buses is a good thing and that 53% consider it will be ‘hard’ or ‘very hard’ for bus operators to shift to 100% ZEBs.

Stagecoach has proposed three core principles, along with 21 specific recommendations, which it believes will allow the industry to transition to 100% electric buses while increasing the number of passengers across the network.

The three core principles are:

  • Funding: The costs of the transition cannot fully be borne by passengers as patronage will fall further.
  • Customer experience: Passengers need to feel that the quality and reliability of service they receive when travelling by bus will improve with the introduction of green buses, rather than be put at threat.
  • Partnership: All stakeholders with an interest in delivering this vision need to work collaboratively to solve the barriers to rollout.

The report’s specific recommendations cover funding, infrastructure and operational changes, and workforce challenges.

“Our research makes clear that this transformational change needs to be done carefully” – Martin Griffiths, Chief Executive of Stagecoach

Martin Griffiths, Chief Executive of Stagecoach, said: “This report demonstrates the prize that is front of the country in terms of moving people out of cars and onto lower carbon forms of transport, if we get the transition to Zero Emissions Buses right. Not only can we reduce emissions by transforming the environmental footprint of the bus fleet, but we can build a new generation of bus passengers.

“This is exciting news for bus operators, the wider industry, government, local authorities and crucially for passengers. However, it’s clear that this is conditional on us all getting the transition right and ensuring that the priorities of passengers are put first.

“Our research makes clear that this transformational change needs to be done carefully. This road map is our contribution to the wider debate, setting out a plan that will support the whole sector make this a success. It’s clear that to achieve this we must take a collaborative approach that meets passenger expectations and focusses on improving the passenger experience. If we get this right there’s so much to gain, but if we don’t we risk setting back the transition to Net Zero.”

The recommendations in the report have been supported by the DfT, Zemo Partnership, Campaign for Better Transport and Transport Focus.

Baroness Vere, Roads Minister, said: “It’s wonderful to see such an ambitious vision from Stagecoach for a national zero emission bus fleet. It’s clear public transport will be vital in our journey towards greener transport and zero emission buses are a key part of this Government’s ambitions, as demonstrated by our commitment to support 4,000 zero emission buses.”

  • The report can be found here

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