Calls made to support net zero transition for rural bus services in UK

Posted: 13 March 2024 | | No comments yet

A new report has outlined key areas of support required from government to enable the transition to net zero for rural bus services across the UK.

Calls made to support transition to net zero for rural bus services in UK

The creation of local transport energy taskforces, the sharing of recharging points and a sustained investment programme from government are needed to ensure rural bus services can transition to net zero in the coming years.

This is according to a new report by industry experts from the Rural Zero Emission Bus Taskforce (RZEBT) that’s led by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) and includes leaders from the bus, manufacturing and energy supply industries. 

Published at the end of February 2024, RZEBT’s report ‘Delivering Zero Emission Bus Services to Rural Areas‘ sets out how, by working in partnership, rural areas can become a driving force for the UK’s transition to a zero-emission bus fleet. It includes positive quick-win, cost-neutral solutions to help rural bus operators to successfully transition to zero-emission vehicles.

Rebecca Kite, Policy Manager at the Confederation of Passenger Transport, 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 to deliver the environmental and social benefits of a bus network that is continuously improving.”

Jeff Counsell, Managing Director of Warrington’s Own Buses and Chairman of the Rural Zero Emission Bus Taskforce said: “I have been particularly impressed with the level of engagement from 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 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 to 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.

The report calls for the UK 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 will help to 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 that 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 that the whole bus sector transitions to zero-emission. Government investment leverages private sector investment, with the recent Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) funding scheme attracting around £1.20 of private investment for every £1 of central government investment.

CPT will continue to engage with government, local transport authorities and other key stakeholders to ensure that the necessary measures are introduced to deliver the environmental and social benefits of a bus network that is continuously improving and ensures that rural bus services, and passengers, are not left behind.