When we entered national lockdown back in the spring, demand for new buses was pushed to a near standstill. Social distancing guidelines discouraged public transport usage for most people. The result: production has now plummeted by more than half this year.
In February, the prime minister committed to providing £3 billion of funding to improve road passenger services, including the purchase of more than 4,000 brand new zero emission buses. A lot has happened since then. However, more than eight months on, we still await details about how, when, or where that money will be spent.
So we were pleased to read this week in The Times, a strongly worded call from Robert Goodwill, the Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby, and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the bus and coach industry, for those funds to be released. Now more than ever, at such a critical time for the sector, we need its champions to stand behind it.
The fleet order boost experienced in the van sector is some positive news this month, but overall commercial vehicle production in the year to date remains at a low level, down -16.8% on last year. With a significant shortfall to make up this winter, the ongoing Covid-19 uncertainty and the looming end of the transition period cast a long shadow ahead.