SMMT Reports

Next Stop, Net Zero: The Route to a Decarbonised UK Bus Market


Zero emission bus registrations are increasing and represented 45% of the single and double-decker market in 2023. The UK is a global leader in zero emission buses and has for many years developed both ultra-low and zero emission bus technologies for the UK market and for export. With the support of government funding, some UK operators have been deploying ultra-low and zero emission buses since 2009, the majority being hybrid diesel and, more recently, electric and hydrogen fuel cell. Between 1990 and 2021, Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHGs) from buses decreased by 53% and accounted for just 2% of overall transport emissions.

Improvements in environmental performance have been delivered in the context of a recent decline in overall bus registrations. Bus journeys were greatly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic with a decline in passenger journeys as a result of lockdown restrictions and working from home policies. Additionally, many operators delayed their purchases of new buses until Clean Air Zone (CAZ) criteria had been specified in many towns and cities. More broadly, bus ridership has been in steady decline for many years, reducing revenue for bus operators and restricting their ability to purchase new vehicles. This has increased their reliance on subsidies in the form of grants such as the Bus Services Operators Grant (BSOG), to maintain the level of service provided.

The bus sector is well positioned to deliver full decarbonisation, and soon – but only if operators are given the incentives and infrastructure support they need to transition away from legacy vehicles. SMMT has identified the route to ensure the next stop is net zero:

  1. Government should urgently bring forward its promised national charging and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure strategy for HDVs, covering both depots and public locations – with plans for grid connections and shared infrastructure.
  2. Certainty on the end of sale date for new, non-zero emission buses, identifying all appropriate enabling conditions in consultation with industry
  3. Government review of funding in collaboration with local authorities, bus operators and manufacturers.
  4. Government should commission research on charging infrastructure at bus depots to maximise space and eliminate the need for a reduction in fleet size.
  5. Government support for consistent implementation of local planning policy to ensure a smooth and efficient process for installing infrastructure.


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