CEO Update

Driving bus, coach and HGV roll-out on the Road to Zero

19 August 2022 #CEO Update

SMMT’s latest figures show Britain’s new bus and coach market grew slightly by 0.6% in the second quarter of 2022 – rounding off 17.9% growth during the first half of the year, at more than 2,000 units. This is positive news, yet the number of new buses and coaches joining UK roads is still some -46.4% below the pre-pandemic five-year average.

The slow recovery is a concern, as this sector is essential to ensuring everyone in British society can be on the move, and has a key role to play on the Road to Zero.

Delivering bus fleet renewal is critical to achieving the UK’s ambitious decarbonisation goals, and while the sector already currently exceeds the passenger car sector in its embrace of zero emission technology, there is a long way to go before regions across the UK have mass mobility via the latest zero emission buses.

Ridership levels have gradually improved since the end of lockdown but remain below pre-pandemic levels, reducing operator confidence to invest in their fleets. Some £270 million of ZEBRA funding has been announced since October, but this is yet to be reflected in registrations.

There is also concern that the dip in ridership could lead to bus service cuts in a number of UK regions, at a time when a variety of transport options is crucial. Bus operators must continue to receive the financial support they need, therefore, so that services across the country remain intact and on track for vehicle renewal.

New figures this week for HGV registrations also revealed slight growth, up 0.4% in Q2, the best second quarter since pre-pandemic 2019. However, half-year performance is -1.0% down on 2021 and -29.5% below 2019.

Demand has remained robust from operators in various sectors, but market delivery continues to be held back by ongoing global supply chain shortages – most notably of semiconductor chips – as well as raw materials.

With a growing number of operators looking to invest in zero emission HGVs where the use case allows, thereby benefitting from their lower running costs, those considering their next fleet investments are encouraged to move early.

They have an opportunity to do so with funding from the £140 million Zero Emission Road Freight programme’s competition for hydrogen and electric HGV demonstrations, announced this week.

Further government support is crucial to encouraging new vehicle acquisition and HGV charging infrastructure – particularly en-route – if the UK is to be at the front of the queue for the latest low and zero emission trucks.

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