UK Government allocates funding for more than 900 electric and hydrogen buses

Image: City of York Council

The Department for Transport (DfT) unveiled its plans for allocating the funding late last week, confirming recipients in locations including Greater Manchester, Nottingham, Blackpool and Portsmouth.

According to the department, the funding will support local authorities with the purchase of 943 buses in total. It will also help councils to invest in the electric charging points or hydrogen refuelling infrastructure needed to support the new buses.

Areas set to receive a share of the grant funding are:

  • Norfolk
  • North Yorkshire
  • Portsmouth
  • Blackpool
  • Nottingham
  • Greater Manchester
  • Hertfordshire
  • South Yorkshire
  • Oxfordshire
  • West Midlands
  • York
  • West Yorkshire

The funding was first confirmed at the publication of the National Bus Strategy in March 2021. Touted as the “most ambitious shake-up of the UK’s bus sector in a generation”, decarbonising buses is a key facet of the strategy, along with improving bus ticket affordability and making bus services more affordable and accessible.

On decarbonisation, the Strategy set a commitment to deliver 4,000 new British-built electric or hydrogen buses across the UK this parliament.  The DfT claims it is on track to achieve this ambition; it has stated that the 943 buses funded through the allocation confirmed this month builds on up to 735 buses already funded through separate processes.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said buses will play an important role in delivering the Government’s vision of “levelling up and cleaning up our transport network”. While the recently published Levelling Up White Paper was broadly criticised across the UK’s green economy, it does list improving local, low-carbon public transport connectivity across the UK as a key mission.

Making zero-emission buses the norm

The National Bus Strategy also saw the Government committing to drawing up a legal end-date for the sale of new petrol and diesel buses, modelled on the 2030 date for cars. The DfT has worked with key stakeholders over the past year to agree on a timeline, and has now opened a consultation on delivering the phase-out by 2032 at the latest. 

Individuals and organisations wishing to comment through the consultation have until 21 May to do so.

In a statement, the DfT said a legal end-date “would bolster the market for zero-emission buses, making them the default choice for operators to transition sooner”.

Several major bus operators have already set their own net-zero targets and begun investing in cleaner vehicles.

First Bus, for example, has committed to delivering a zero-emission fleet in the UK by 2035 and has already changed its procurement processes to help meet this goal. Elsewhere, Stagecoach has a 2050 net-zero target and The Go-Ahead Group’s is in place for 2045.

Collaboration on decarbonisation in the bus sector is strong. 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).

Sarah George

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