The government has unveiled a new project aiming to further develop and support the bus sector, with the Roads Minister announcing government funding.
Investment of £815,000 is being put into the project, with upskilling, recruitment and retention of bus professionals being the main goal. This will be done through the creation of a Bus Centre of Excellence, as it was pledged in the National Bus Strategy. This will support the development of a new generation of bus professionals through training opportunities, direct access to resources and industry experts and events to help them network with other professionals to uplift the entire sector.
The Centre of Excellence will be hosted by the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, with this following last month’s announcement of £155 million to maintain supporting bus services around the country and the plans to ensure that all bus fares are affordable, with £2 caps being extended. President of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, Neil Johnstone, added:
“CIHT has a proven track record of delivering high quality continuing professional development for those working in the transportation sector. We are delighted to be the chosen partner to help work on improving this important sustainable transport mode.
“This partnership (alongside other government initiatives) will see CIHT help to bring together a wide range of professional skills and knowledge from both the public and private sector to facilitate change to local infrastructure, service delivery and the sector across the country – with the ultimate aim off improving bus services.”
Alongside the announcement of the Centre of Excellence, the Department for Transport also announced that £3 million is being allocated for 18 new zero emission buses in Leicester. This compliments the mission to decarbonise the sector, whilst following announcements of other areas being allocated funding for zero emission buses. Much like the ones being funded in West Yorkshire, among other regions, the buses will be manufactured in Northern Ireland and operated by FirstBus.
The buses are to replace all of the diesel at FirstBus’ Leicester depot, making Leicester home to one of the first fully electric bus depots in the UK whilst also having the first net zero bus station in the UK.
Richard Holden, Roads Minister, said:
“Buses are the backbone of our transport network, providing affordable travel for the commuters, families, and pensioners, and providing an economic lifeline for towns and cities around the country.
“This multimillion investment for Leicester’s clean transformation, coupled with the new Bus Centre of Excellence, will help drive the country’s bus sector recovery and provide passengers with cleaner, more affordable buses that run on time.”
In total, Leicester operates 11 electric buses and has seen the support of almost £22 million in Zero Emission Buses Regional Areas (ZEBRA) funding. The government has also invested over £2 billion to protect wider bus services since the Covid-19 pandemic.