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Time for buses to take centre stage

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UK buses are leading the way to net zero. Last year, the UK recorded the largest zero emission bus market in Europe in 2023, with ZEVs comprising 45% of new single- and double-deckers. And last week, SMMT published the Q1 bus registration figures, showing that year on year, the market has grown by 22.9%. Against this backdrop, this week SMMT has also launched a new policy paper, Next Stop, Net Zero: The Route to a Decarbonised UK Bus Market, which set outs out how, with the right support and market conditions, the UK can fully decarbonise the UK new bus market by 2030.

Bus manufacturers have invested significantly in green bus innovation, with some 13 different zero emission models now available. The UK and Scottish Governments have provided significant funding for local transport operators across the country to invest in zero emission single and double decker battery electric and hydrogen buses, along with supporting infrastructure. However, smaller and rural operators face tougher challenges with often longer routes and lower ridership, so it was good to see the recent second round of Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) funding allocate £40m to rural services out of £142.8m provided.

Next Stop, Net Zero sets out the case for providing a clear timetable to put every region, operator, driver and passenger on the journey to net zero. Buses are the backbone of mass transportation and are often the only option for many people to get to work or travel. While the pandemic impacted ridership, we are beginning to see passengers return, helped by schemes such as the £2 fare cap. However, margins are tight for operators, and with higher upfront costs from these zero emission vehicles compared to fossil-fuel powered predecessors, every incentive the future government can provide will be essential to drive success.

Looking to the nearer future, we are just one month away from the SMMT International Automotive Summit, taking place in London on Tuesday 25 June. As ever, the commercial vehicle sector will be represented within a number of sessions across the day.

Demonstrating the significance of this flagship SMMT event, Anna Westerberg, President of Volvo Buses, will deliver an industry keynote speech. Peter Ahrens, Managing Director of Leyland Trucks will be on a panel covering how progress towards Net Zero adoption in the commercial vehicle sector will be achieved, discussing what is needed in terms of product, market and infrastructure. And Jean-Marc Gales, Chief Executive Officer of Wrightbus, will discuss how momentum is building in the bus market, the key challenges ahead, and how industry and government can collaborate to fulfil the industry’s full potential. More information – including ticket details – are available here. With a general election now looming in just six weeks, it’s the perfect place for the industry to speak with one voice.


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