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25.06.18

Ultra-low emission buses: a clear vision for clean air

Source: PSE June/July 2018

Earlier this year, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced the £48m Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme, which transport minister Nusrat Ghani says will go a long way to cleaning up our air and eliminating carbon emissions.

From bustling city centres to scenic countryside routes, buses are at the heart of the public transport network in this country – and it’s clear just how many people rely on them.

Buses complete almost five billion passenger journeys every year in Britain – that’s nearly two-thirds of all public transport trips. They are also the most effective way to keep Britain’s busy cities and towns moving. Yet they are so fundamental to British life that they’re often taken for granted.

Whether it’s capacity, geographical coverage, ease of use, cost or efficiency, no other form of public transport offers the same service. To put it simply, buses are indispensable. And, most importantly, they provide a unique answer to most of the local transport challenges that we face.

That is why I want to encourage councils and bus companies to make services more attractive. We must hammer home the message that buses are part of the solution to problems such as congestion and pollution.

Our commitment to improve air quality across all modes of transport is at the centre of our plans to evolve the bus industry over the coming decades.

We are doing more than ever before to achieve this, and we have a clear vision for every new car and van to be zero emission by 2040.

On top of this, we recognise that the transport sector is going to have to change dramatically over the next couple of decades – and buses are no exception.

Of course, increasing bus use would vastly improve air quality by taking more cars off the road – but we want to go further than that.

A call to action

That is why in March this year, the DfT launched its multimillion-pound Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme to ensure more passengers across the country benefit from cleaner and greener travel.

This programme will see local authorities and bus operators in England and Wales bid for a share of a £48m fund, which they will then use to buy hundreds of new ultra-low emission buses and the infrastructure to support them.

We have already seen how successful such schemes can be. In 2015, 18 local authorities and bus operators were given £30m between them to bring more than 300 low-emission buses into service by the end of next year. The sooner we get these greener vehicles on the road, the faster we’ll reap the benefits.

That is why I want to encourage councils and bus companies to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity.

Britain is already a pioneer in low-carbon buses, and the industry can be proud of what it’s achieved in recent years. We have almost 6,000 low-carbon buses in service, the highest number of electric buses in Europe and the largest hybrid fleet with more than 3,000 vehicles.

All of this brings us closer to our goal of seeing a full transition to a low emission fleet in England and Wales.

The key to success is partnership: government, industry, councils and operators working together for the benefit of passengers, for the benefit of the environment, and for the benefit of the whole country. If we take these vital steps to evolve the industry now, over the coming decades buses will become more important than ever.

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