Buses take centre stage across the UK with billions in new funding and support

Tue 30 March 2021 View all news

In a big month for buses across the nations, the UK Government has introduced a new £3bn strategy for buses - Bus Back Better - setting out how better bus services for passengers across England will be delivered "through ambitious and far-reaching reform of how services are planned and delivered".  The strategy launch was followed by the announcement of “ZEBRA” Zero Emission Buses Regional Ares, a £120m fund to help English local authorities introduce zero emission buses.

Scotland also announced its biggest ever funding investment in zero emission buses with the award of over £40m to replace 215 buses through SULEBS (Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme), supported with information on new and innovative funding ideas aimed to help speed up the transition to net zero.

The Welsh Government agreed £37m additional funding under Bus Emergency Scheme 2 (BES2)  in support of Llwybr Newydd the Wales Transport Strategy 2021 (also announced this month) which, it says, "places people and climate change at the front and centre of our transport system".

The UK Government has also launched a consultation on when to end the sale of new diesel buses to drive forward the decarbonisation of public transport.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that up to £120 million is being made available through the Zero Emission Buses Regional Area (ZEBRA) scheme, which will allow local transport authorities to:

  • bid for funding to purchase zero-emission buses
  • reduce the carbon emissions from their local public transport
  • improve air quality in towns and cities across England

The Government says that the funding will deliver up to 500 zero-emission buses, supporting its wider commitment to introduce 4,000 zero emission buses. It comes from the wider £3 billion fund announced by the Government to improve bus services published on 15 March. There are details on how to apply for ZEBRA funding here

The strategy represents the biggest shake-up to the standard of bus services in the country for a generation according to the Government.

To ensure the funding from the zero emission bus fund is used quickly to help provide British bus manufacturers with an injection of orders, the Government is calling on consortia of local transport authorities, energy companies, bus operators and manufacturers to come together to work up strong cases for funding. 

Bidders will have until 21 May 2021 (for fast track applications)to submit expressions of interest for a rapid process that will allow local transport authorities with well-developed proposals to move quickly in their bid to secure funding.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said: "We’ve set out our vision of how we’re going to make buses better in this country, and now we’re getting on with delivering it.

The launch of the scheme today means we’re giving businesses and local authorities the tools to help deliver the 4,000 zero-emission buses we said we would introduce, which will dramatically improve air quality in towns and cities across the country, helping us achieve our net-zero ambitions.

In related news, Coventry received the first funding under the UK's  all-electric bus towns and cities competition, giving the city £50 million of funding to revolutionise its bus services and entirely replace their current fleet with electric buses.

The Department for Transport is also awarding English local authorities funding for 17 successful proposals under the rural mobility fund to trial on-demand bus services in their areas.

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