A smooth ride to zero-emission rural buses?

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Rural services such as this one operated by Trasndev’s Team Pennine are already difficult to make pay, even with high-quality vehicles; electrification is beyond what many can justify from a commercial perspective, but is a challenge that needs to be addressed. TRANSDEV

Kevin Carr reports from the launch of the CPT’s report on achieving zero-emission rural mobility, which was held at Westminster on 28 February

The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) set up a taskforce last summer to look at zero-emission bus services in rural areas. Since then, the Rural Zero Emission Bus Taskforce (RZEBT), a panel of experts made up from the bus operators, manufacturers, suppliers and both local and national government, has been looking what the problems are and what the solutions may be. So, when I heard about their new report, I headed to Westminster to find out more.

The event in the Houses of Parliament was to launch the Taskforce’s ‘Delivering Zero Emission Bus Services to Rural Areas’ – a plan for the future. It seemed sensible to me that the report was being launched here, at the heart of decision making, to an audience composed of industry people and crucially Government officials and MPs – the people who make the decisions on our behalf to shape the future. The right location for the job, even if those rural communities we were thinking and talking about felt a million miles away.

Rural bus services are vital to the communities in which they operate; most people recognise that. They are vital socially, economically, and crucially environmentally. ‘Delivering Zero Emission Bus Services to Rural Areas’ sounds like an uphill battle – and it is. The challenges in decarbonising rural transport are enormous and the taskforce’s new report doesn’t shy away from any of the problems. Long routes, hilly terrain and low financial yield are among the many obstacles. But it’s a fight that, it appears, the bus industry is up for – the prize meaning greener buses for our vast rural areas.

War on carbon

RZEBT is chaired by Jeff Counsell, Electric Vehicle Director of Warrington’s Own Buses. The taskforce was created to identify the specific challenges that rural bus operators face on the road to net zero. Facing pressures on energy, distance, location, and cost to name a few, it sounds like a war on carbon. Rather fitting then that we were located in the Churchill Room of the House of Commons, of course named after wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, to hear all about what the panel of experts think the way forward should be.


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