Bus sector convenes to smooth transition to zero emission bus services to rural areas

Wed 28 February 2024 View all news

A Taskforce of industry experts convened by CPT makes proposals to show how rural areas can become a driving force for the UK’s transition to a zero emission bus fleet.

The Rural Zero Emission Bus Taskforce (RZEBT) recommends a key role for Local Transport Authorities in establishing Local Transport Energy Taskforces with bus operators and other key local stakeholders. These will help determine a decarbonisation strategy for the area which prioritises energy for buses and identifies shared infrastructure sites, as well as expediting planning applications for depot recharging infrastructure. The bus sector also commits to sharing recharging/refuelling infrastructure where appropriate.

Rebecca Kite, Policy Manager at CPT, said: “Rural buses provide a vital lifeline for their passengers, connecting people located in rural areas to towns and city centres, enabling them to access education, employment, medical appointments and other important services. Introducing the correct supportive measures will enable these bus services to transition to zero emission vehicles and will help deliver the environmental and social benefits of a bus network that is continuously improving.”

Jeff Counsell, MD of Warrington’s Own Buses and Chairman of the Taskforce said: “I have been particularly impressed with the level of engagement from both bus operators as well as national and local government representatives and experts from electricity, hydrogen and zero emission technology providers. It is through collaborations such as this that we will ensure all sectors can transition sustainably to zero emission solutions. The Taskforce identified a key part of this journey will be through establishing local transport collaborations that bring together local stakeholders to identify available resources and unlock solutions that deliver environmental benefits for the area.”

The report calls for the Government to provide additional support through:

  • Working with Ofgem to introduce a new statutory duty on Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) which will prioritise grid infrastructure that will deliver social and community benefits. This will ensure that bus depots are moved higher up the priority list and help accelerate the process of increasing electricity supplied to depots.
  • Developing a hydrogen strategy that gives certainty over the supply of green hydrogen for bus and coach operators, and ensuring operators can access shared refuelling sites. It is vital that the Health and Safety Executive are given the appropriate training to certify hydrogen refuelling stations and mitigate the risk of stranded assets.
  • A longer-term approach to funding, with a five year £1 billion investment programme in zero emission buses and infrastructure in England, along with the continuation of support through the Scottish Zero Emission Bus Scheme (ScotZEB) in Scotland and similar continued support in Wales, which will instil confidence so the whole bus sector transitions to zero emissions. Government investment leverages private sector investment, with the recent ZEBRA funding scheme attracting around £1.20 of private investment for every £1 of central government investment.

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