It is an oft repeated saying that “you wait for one bus and then three turn up at the same time.” Very fittingly, over the past few days we have seen three new DfT bus announcements: the ZEBRA scheme, the diesel bus End of Sale Consultation and the long awaited £3 billion National Bus Strategy.
Although all long overdue, they are very welcome and will finally provide a degree of stability and clarity for a beleaguered sector. As you would expect, there is a lot of detail to work through and there is likely to be much discussion, negotiation and tweaking over time, but overall, the three documents taken together are a pragmatic move forward.
However, we do have a major concern over timing. While the structure comes into force over the summer, we do not see any significant funding being put in place for at least 12 months. Furthermore, it is important that any allocation of funding is impartial, giving rural communities an equal chance to upgrade their bus fleets to the latest, greenest technology. Significant investment as well as improvement in planning policy are also needed to deliver the necessary charging and refuelling infrastructure. Finally, although it is a good first step for the bus sector, the strategy does not address the needs of the coach industry, which also faces a crisis deepened by more than a year of lockdown restrictions.
SMMT will continue to work with government and all stakeholders to ensure Bus Back Better can deliver for the bus and coach sector to meet our collective and ambitious net zero target. Add to that today’s government announcement to decrease all plug-in grants, we’ve a lot of work to do.
On the subject of Net Zero, SMMT’s first Electrified conference takes place next Thursday, 25th March. With more than 700 delegates already registered, it is proving to be the unmissable event to hear from industry leaders on opportunities and challenges ahead on the much-deliberated Road to Zero.