£101m allocated for regional bus initiatives

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Arriva has ordered 77 Volvo hybrids, the largest confirmed order to date
Arriva has ordered 77 Volvo hybrids, the largest confirmed order to date

England will see more so-called ‘green’ buses on the roads, reduced congestion and upgraded services, due to a new £101m package of improvements approved by local transport minister Norman Baker

Local transport minister Norman Baker has announced £101m of grants from the Green Bus (GBF) and Better Bus Area (BBA) funds.

The news comes after he memorably declared a third round of GBF would become available at the UK Bus Awards in November 2011.

Now, after two-month bidding process for the packages, the Department for Transport (DfT) has also provided £31m of funding for 439 new eco-friendly buses for 2012/2013. Approximately 128 single-deck and 311 double-decker buses are due to enter service from spring 2013, saving over 9,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per annum.

The 26 bus operators including Stagecoach, Arriva and First are receiving more than £22m, with more than £8m split between five local authorities.

Five bus manufacturers benefit from orders for their eco-friendly hybrid, electric and gas buses. They comprise: Volvo, Wrightbus, Optare, MAN and Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL), all of which are based in, or partly in, the UK.

By switching to low carbon buses, the operators will also be eligible to claim additional government subsidy through the Bus Service Operators Grant to run these buses. Bus operators and local authorities will be given six pence per kilometre to support them with operational costs.

Norman Baker said: “This funding means a better deal for passengers and encourages more people to travel by bus. It updates and improves services and infrastructure, reduces congestion, gives quieter journeys and with the introduction of new carbon friendly buses, reduces fuel costs and CO2 emissions, creating a greener network.”

However, CBW understands funds have been allocated to an operator who does not appear to hold a valid O-license and an investigation is set to get underway. A DfT spokesperson told CBW: “It would be inappropriate to discuss the circumstances of individual cases. However, I can confirm we would not expect to pay money to an operator under the Green Bus Fund unless and until they held a valid operator’s licence.”

Local authorities across England which have impressed the DfT with their bid for funding, will also receive a share of £70m under the BBA fund to boost growth, improve partnerships with bus companies and increase bus passenger numbers. They will benefit from up to £5m each in order to support a range of targeted improvements.

A regional breakdown can be found in this week’s Coach and Bus Week, along with some reaction.