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Bus industry calls on UK government to move faster on zero emission vehicles

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The UK bus industry has accused the UK government of lack of clarity and urgency over funding plans for 4,000 zero-emission vehicles, amid concerns over the pace of action to meet decarbonization targets.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged in February 2020 financial support over five years to English operators to switch to electric and hydrogen buses. But so far the government has only released funds for 900 vehicles and only 100 have actually hit the road.

The bus industry body, major manufacturers and unions jointly wrote to the Department of Transportation and Treasury last week to demand a clearer funding schedule be set in the fall spending review from the British government.

The funding program “is expected to deliver many more buses on an accelerated schedule than we’ve seen to date,” they wrote in the letter.

“Without this roadmap, we risk a situation where the Prime Minister’s commitment will be extremely difficult to meet and the broader transition to zero-emission buses more problematic,” they wrote.

The Ministry of Transport has announced that it will soon announce winning bids to finance another 500 buses, bringing the total to 1,400. “Work is well advanced to meet the Prime Minister’s commitment of 4,000 zero-emission buses by 2025, “he said.

Complaints from the bus sector reflect wider discontent in the industry over what some say is the UK government’s failure to lay down detailed plans and release enough money to meet ambitious decarbonization targets.

Bus operators, manufacturers and charging service providers say they need time to prepare supply chains and infrastructure before funds are allocated. The lack of clarity risks pushing up the price for consumers to reach zero net emissions of climate change gases, they say.

“Continuing to fund zero-emission buses through sporadic fundraisers, for which local authorities have to waste time and resources competing, is yesterday’s solution to a pressing problem today,” said Jonathan Bray, director of Urban Transport Group, which represents English urban regions. ‘transport authorities.

The industry as a whole is struggling to recover from the pandemic and operators say they cannot afford electric buses, which initially cost twice as much as diesel ones, without government support.

Paul Davies, chairman and chief executive of Alexander Dennis, the UK’s largest bus manufacturer, said the company cut its workforce by 25% last year due to the pandemic.

Davies said the company is struggling to rebuild its workforce and supply chains because it doesn’t know when new orders will arrive.

“The capacity of established bus manufacturers has been drastically reduced. It is important that we have visibility on a track that supports us, ”he said.

Along with others in the industry, Davies said the Scottish government – which has delegated power over transport policy – has done a much better job of quickly providing funding for clean buses than the UK government has in England.

Deferring orders to future years would mean “you get to the point where you’re trying to put two quarts in a one-quart jar,” he added.