Bus manufacturers await national strategy

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In November, having just bailed out Transport for London, the UK Government announced a Ten Point Plan for a ‘green recovery.’ Prominent among the proposals was increased support for buses, which have been severely impacted by lockdowns, social distancing and declines in ridership. Here, Roger Brereton, Head of Sales at steering system specialist, Pailton Engineering, reflects on a challenging year for buses

In February, the UK government pledged £5 billion of investment toward walking, cycling and buses, including incentives for bus electrification. The following month, everything changed. With lockdowns and social distancing, bus ridership levels, already at historically low levels before the pandemic, fell off the cliff edge.

Bus manufacturers and operators were faced with a period of unprecedented uncertainty. New bus and coach registrations fell by over 77% in the second quarter of 2020, with a mere 328 vehicles joining UK roads. Similar falls were reported across a Covid-battered Europe.

During the summer, as lockdown measures were lifted, passenger levels failed to return to previous levels. In many places, they returned to approximately 60% of pre-Covid capacity, but in London the figure was approximately 35%. It is likely that different levels of remote working and different rules for social distancing explain these variations.

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