Local authorities have been invited to apply to become the UK’s first all-electric bus town, with the winning area due to receive up to £50million to help pay for a new fleet of electric buses, reducing emissions and tackling local air quality.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps points out that a town with 200 electric buses could save around 7,400tonnes of CO2 each year, the equivalent to taking 3,700 diesel cars off the road.
The £50 million fund is part of a total £17 million allocated today to improve services and make bus journeys greener, easier and more reliable.
“Buses carry more people than any other form of public transport in the UK, and with 200 electric buses able to offset 3,700 diesel cars, it is clear they have a crucial role to play in bringing down emissions,” says Shapps. “But Britain’s first all-electric bus town is just the start. Helping deliver on our manifesto promise, this £170million package will help us to create communities which are cleaner, easier to get around and more environmentally friendly, speeding up journeys and making them more reliable.
“By focusing on efficient and affordable transport, we will make greener journeys the natural choice.”
The government is also offering a new £20 million fund to encourage the development and trial of on-demand ride sharing services in rural and suburban areas, and a further £30million of funding in 2020 to 2021 for local authorities to help them improve current bus services or restore those that have been lost.
Every local authority in England, outside of London, is eligible for this funding.
New low-fare, high-frequency Superbus networks are also planned with the first to be introduced in Cornwall next year, where the network will be integrated with the county’s main railway line, which will also see increased train frequency.
Claire Walters, chief executive, Bus Users, says: “Despite being the most used form of public transport, bus services have been decimated over the past few decades. Reliable and accessible bus services benefit everyone, and today’s announcement will certainly help to improve services. However, the only way to encourage more people on board and make buses the best choice in green transport is through bus prioritisation measures, and that has to be part of a wider, long-term bus strategy.”
Wrightbus executive chairman Jo Bamford, welcomed the new funding but called on the government to back hydrogen buses. “This funding announcement is a clear demonstration of the Government’s commitment to creating a modern bus network, fit for the needs of modern passengers. Wrightbus is committed to delivering world class battery electric and hydrogen electric vehicles both for the UK and export markets. Whilst there is a role for sustainable fuels of all types, hydrogen buses offer particular advantages, especially on longer-distance routes and they require much less new and complex infrastructure or behavioural change from bus operators.
“Given this exciting potential, we urge the government to consider the advantages of basing their planned all-electric bus town on hydrogen-electric technologies, an industrial sector on which Britain can lead the world.”