Stagecoach calls for transport policy overhaul as part of carbon-neutral roadmap

Transport group Stagecoach has unveiled a new roadmap to becoming a carbon-neutral business by 2050, while also calling for the UK Government to fix "contradictory policies" associated with the transport sector and the need to reach net-zero emissions.

Stagecoach calls for transport policy overhaul as part of carbon-neutral roadmap

Stagecoach has already invested £1bn on 7

Stagecoach’s new strategy outlines how the organisation will reach carbon-neutrality by 2050, including plans to covert its entire UK bus fleet to zero emissions in the same timeframe.

Having already reduced emissions by 14% since 2014, the company is now targeting a 70% reduction in emissions from its business by 2035.

Stagecoach has confirmed plans to sign up to the global Race to Zero campaign and has also started working towards setting science-based targets for ratification by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which will push the organisation towards its aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

The company will switch away from clean diesel that it is currently using and that had 95% less pollutants than standard diesel, to zero-carbon technologies such as electric and hydrogen buses. Stagecoach has already invested £1bn on 7,000 low-carbon vehicles over the last 10 years.

Additional targets include purchasing 100% renewables for its buildings and fleet, aligning energy management systems with ISO50001 by 2027, diverting 98% of waste from landfill by 2031 and ensuring women make up at least 40% of the company’s leaders and 25% of the wider workforce are from ethnic minorities by 2026.

Stagecoach has also pledged to create a new “steering group” for sustainability, and will comply with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and has set a target of achieving a CDP A rating.

However, the business is also calling on the UK Government to help create “radical behaviour change and incentives to reward the right choices” by promoting public transport and walking and cycling as part of efforts to reach net-zero by 2050.

Stagecoach’s chief executive Martin Griffiths said: “The country will not deliver on its ambitions by grand strategies or technology change alone. We need radical behaviour change and incentives to reward the right choices to make net-zero a reality. We need to be more honest about the scale of the challenge and the changes we will need to make to how we live now.

“Governments need to get real and stop cherry-picking the easy wins. We urgently need practical changes by national and regional government to address contradictory policies and mixed messaging currently being sent to citizens.  We need an end to the ludicrous situation where some clean air zone plans effectively tax bus passengers making a sustainable choice but do nothing to address diesel cars contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of people in our communities every year.”

Incentivising public transport

Griffiths notes that the current tax system is based on a “car first” approach that is disincentivising public transport.

Indeed, IPPR analysis of the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget advice suggests that efforts to decarbonise road transport through the uptake of EVs could deliver an 11% increase in car traffic by 2050 and a 28% increase in car ownership. The analysis expresses concern about the resources required to accommodate the 28% increase in car ownership – equivalent to around 43.6 million vehicles.

Instead, the IPPR is calling for transport to be decarbonised in line with the net-zero target in a way that encourages greater uptake of public transport, cycling and walking.

While welcoming efforts to decarbonise the sector, the IPPR notes that only one-third of the bottom 10% in terms of household income own a car. As such, a growth in car ownership through EVs and road expansions could place some at risk. The IPPR is calling for a reallocation of road space to account for cycling, walking and green space. The thinktank adds that towns and city centres should aim to be car free by 2030 and local authorities should target at least 30% tree cover for new developments that also prevent traffic increases or car dependence.

Even under the recently released Transport Decarbonisation Plan, details on plans for decarbonising public transport are fairly light. The Plan highlights the Ten Point Plan commitments of £5bn for walking, cycling and low-carbon buses, as well as the National Bus Strategy. Consultations on the Strategy’s end-date for diesel bus sales are ongoing. Replacements will likely be a mixture of electric and hydrogen models.

Organisations representing more than 95% of the UK’s bus industry have pledged to only invest in low-emission vehicles from 2025, through the industry body the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT).

The commitment will see Confederation members such as Arriva, Go Ahead, National Express, Stagecoach and First Group, develop plans to purchase only zero-emission vehicles for use in cities and low-emission vehicles for use in more rural UK locations over the next five years.

Such plans, the CPT claims, will help it to ensure that 5.4 billion journeys are made by bus in the UK each year by 2030, up from 4.4 billion at present, decreasing the public’s reliance on privately-owned petrol and diesel cars.

Last year, TfL revealed that a total of 165 zero-emission buses were in operation around London. The capital has since integrated around 70 electric double-decker buses into its fleet. TfL has already ordered 20 hydrogen-powered buses from Wrightbus, which are being rolled out throughout the year. London has committed to procuring roughly 300 zero-emission buses by 2020.

Matt Mace


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