Report calls for additional zero-emission coach support

A report by the Zero Emission Coach Taskforce (ZECT) is calling on the government to provide additional support to further the coach industry’s drive towards zero-emission operations.

A greater use of low carbon fuels in the short-term and more zero-emission refuelling or charging infrastructure as part of a National Zero Emission Coach Strategy are needed to maintain affordable long-distance coach travel when new diesel vehicles are phased out in 2040, according to the report.

The ZECT is led by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) and leaders from the coach, manufacturing and supply industries. ZECT’s recently published report ‘Coach Route Map to Destination Zero’, sets out how, with the right government support, the sector could make great strides towards meeting its decarbonisation goals. It includes positive quick-win, cost-neutral solutions to help the sector, 81% of which are family or individually run, to successfully transition to zero-emission vehicles by 2050.

Ian Luckett, Chair of ZECT, said: “Our report reveals that coach operators are wholly committed to decarbonising their 27,500 strong fleet in time for Net Zero targets.

“We’ve identified simple and value-for-money solutions that include legislation changes on vehicle weight loads, tax incentives to encourage low carbon fuel use until zero emission technology becomes more viable, as well as incorporating coaches into zero emission Government funding already committed to cars, vans, buses and HGVs.

“We look forward to working with the Government on a National Zero Emission Coach Strategy, so that operators can continue to provide the wide range of vital services for their passengers in a carbonless future.”

Graham Vidler, Chief Executive of CPT, said: “Coach is already the greenest way of travelling around the country and the coach sector is determined to stay ahead on the journey to net zero

“ZECT was formed to build a collaborative approach between government and industry and it is crucial the Taskforce’s constructive recommendations are delivered imminently to provide confidence to the sector to invest in a green future.”

Insight from Maynes

Transitioning to net-zero is a strategic ambition of Maynes Coaches, a fifth-generation family run company in the Moray Firth in Scotland, who boast Euro VI engines across its entire fleet. Maynes do more mileage on a direct trip than most other UK coach operators. As a greener alternative than taking the car or a plane, Maynes routinely travel 159 miles for four-hours from their depot in the town of Buckie to Thurso, the most northerly town on the British mainland. This is to pick up passengers off a boat from the Orkney islands and then take them to Dover and into Switzerland.

Locally too, a Maynes coach easily exceeds more than 200 miles a day, taking shift workers to a shortbread factory at 4am and 10pm, with school runs and private hire work in between. Without available recharging and refuelling points, public transport in Moray and the Highlands could take longer when the sale of new diesel vehicles ends in 2040.

Kevin Maynes, Operations Director at Maynes Coaches, said: “While we are ready and excited about the challenge of decarbonising our fleet, some coach businesses are frightened to invest in new technologies due to cost and a lack of information on which step to take – hydrogen or electric.

“If there’s a greater focus on more refuelling and recharging points through a government policy shift, then more operators and the rest of the UK will follow suit in investing in low and net zero technologies.

“The UK Government needs to follow Scotland’s lead as the first Parliament in the UK to allocate zero emission funding to not just buses, but coaches too.”

What can be done

A third of operators’ work is made up of 600,000 daily home to school trips. It is the long-distance services on top of this, which cater for holidaymakers, intercity travellers and sports fans, that keep the sector thriving and in business. The coach sector contributes £14 billion to the UK economy each year and in 2019 alone, was responsible for 23million visits to tourist hotspots.

To sustain this important work, ZECT has identified ways in which the sector can play its part in decarbonisation. Solutions include: transitional technologies, such as engine retrofitting for hydrogen combustion, engine repowering and the use of low carbon fuels; working with manufacturers on trials and specifications for future zero emission coaches; sharing of best practice and the enabling of vehicles owned by other operators to access recharging or refuelling infrastructure at coach depots to create a reliable network.

The report calls for the government to provide additional support through:

  • Installing coach friendly hydrogen and electric infrastructure. Industry needs a reliable network of refuelling and recharging infrastructure across the strategic road network. A great first step towards achieving this would be to expand the Rapid Charge Fund (which currently supports cars and vans) to include coaches, as well as identifying opportunities for collaboration with the freight sector through the Zero Emission Road Freight Trials.
  • Incentives for low carbon fuels to increase supply and encourage use. Low carbon fuels, such as Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) can significantly, and immediately, reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of operators existing fleets. These fuels operate similarly to diesel and can provide a transitional solution for coach operators while the industry waits for a zero-emission solution for longer distance services, however fiscal incentives are needed to increase uptake.
  • Vehicle weight amendments: zero-emission powertrains are significantly heavier than standard diesel engines. The legislation relating to axle weight could be revised to help mitigate the impact of the increased weight on passenger and luggage capacity.

With the UK’s net-zero target of 2050 in focus, CPT is developing an online platform to help operators navigate the process, including the installation of infrastructure.

CPT is encouraging coach operators to contribute to the Taskforce by giving feedback on their own experiences of zero-emission vehicles by contacting [email protected]

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