ALBUM and CPT respond to diesel coach and bus sale end date consultations

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Industry bodies urge Government to ensure the transition to zero-emission power sources is achievable for coach and bus

The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has told the Government that any phase out date for the sale of non-zero emission buses and coaches needs to recognise the unique challenges of each sector.

Responding to the consultation on buses, the CPT said that, with sufficient Government funding, over two thirds of all new bus orders would be zero-emission by 2025, and that this would largely be driven by larger operators meaning any end sale date needs to consider the challenges faced by smaller operators.

CPT Head of Policy Alison Edwards said: “Despite the challenges of Covid-19 bus operators have taken the lead on seeking to decarbonise their fleets, but challenges do remain. Historically SME operators have had limited access to Government funding and there are often challenges with infrastructure deployment at smaller depots. Therefore, it is vital that the end date for the sale of non-zero emission buses provides SME operators with the time and flexibility to ensure appropriate and affordable solutions are developed.”

CPT’s response to the call for evidence, in advance of a formal consultation, on an end date for the sale of coaches highlighted the lack of clarity over technological solutions as well as the need for nationwide charging infrastructure. Alison added: “The most significant challenge for the sector is the lack of certainty over technology – hydrogen, electric or a combination of both. CPT will continue to work through these options with the Zero Emission Coach Taskforce to build a clearer picture of what the zero emission coach landscape looks like.
“Overcoming range anxiety will also be important to encourage operators to make the switch. A comprehensive and reliable network of recharging and refuelling infrastructure must be delivered alongside moveable recharging/refuelling depot solutions.”

The Association of Local Bus Managers (ALBUM), which represents over 140 members in 46 companies which operate over 5,500 vehicles between them – about 14% of the local buses operated across Great Britain – also prepared a detailed response to the Government consultation on ending the sale of non zero-emission buses.

“ALBUM members strongly believe that tackling climate change is vital for us all. We share the wish to reduce emissions from all forms of transport,” the association said. “We know that buses can be part of the solution by making the bus the logical solution for more and more trips. ALBUM members are working with our local authority partners to help make this a reality. Modal shift is the real prize.

“Zero-emission buses bring much higher costs: they are more expensive to buy and need the infrastructure in place to support electric or hydrogen charging. This means that financial support from central and local government is vital if we are to avoid higher fares or reductions in services, especially in the smaller urban and rural areas in which many ALBUM members operate. The technology is evolving very quickly. It is not yet suited to longer routes or for the smaller depots and outstations that support many lower-frequency rural services.

“Our recommendation is not to set an end date for the sale of non-zero-emission buses until there is much more clarity about the best technology; this was a key theme of the ALBUM conference in April in Blackpool. Challenges have to be identified and solutions found. We are sure that the Government knows that this is a tough problem; the focus for all bus operators is survival as we build back passenger numbers after the pandemic.”

ALBUM Policy Advisor Tony Depledge added: “We are keen to work with the Government to scope the challenges and to identify solutions that will benefit the communities that we serve. The transition to a low and zero-carbon future brings many financial, operational and technical challenges. Central and local government and bus operators all have their part to play in tackling climate change while rebuilding and growing the networks that will make buses the transport mode of choice across the country.”