In the National Bus Strategy, Bus Back Better, published last year, the Government committed to a green bus revolution. This Government is going further and faster than ever to decarbonise transport, harnessing the power of clean, green technology to end the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050.
In March 2021, the Secretary of State addressed the House to set out our road map to a zero-emission bus fleet, and I am pleased to say that, a year on, we are continuing to deliver against our commitments. Last October, at Budget, Government announced almost £71 million in funding through the ZEBRA fast track, and on Saturday we announced almost £200 million in funding through the ZEBRA standard track, which will support nearly 1,000 zero emission buses, in England.
The areas that have been successful in the ZEBRA standard process are as follows: Blackpool Council, City of York Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Norfolk County Council, North Yorkshire County Council, Nottingham City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Portsmouth City Council & Hampshire County Council, South Yorkshire Combined Authority, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, West Midlands Combined Authority and West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
I understand that some members will be disappointed that their constituency was not able to benefit from this round of funding. There is over £200 million of further funding dedicated to zero emission buses, over the next three financial years. Rest assured, this Government is dedicated to ensuring that people across the country can benefit from the significant environmental benefits of zero emission buses, and we will lay out plans for future funding in due course.
This announcement is a key milestone in our commitment to delivering 4,000 zero emission buses. Through this funding, we are supporting some of the largest deployments of both electric and hydrogen buses in Europe. The Government remains technology neutral, but we are not outcome neutral – to achieve legally binding carbon and air quality targets, and reduce our contribution to climate change, the bus sector must transition to zero emission vehicles.
To achieve this goal, providing certainty to operators and manufacturers, and to focus R&D activities on achieving zero emissions, we have also launched a consultation on ending the sale of new, non-zero emission buses, across the UK. We have set an ambitious range, between 2025 – 2032, meaning from 2032, at the very latest, the sale of all new buses, powered either in part, or totally, by an internal combustion engine will cease to be allowed.
The Transport Decarbonisation Plan set out the ambitious actions needed to decarbonise the entire transport system. This reaffirmed the crucial role that buses must play in transport, achieving net zero and driving the green transformation. But it also recognised the challenges beyond buses, including driving the decarbonisation of coaches and other passenger transport modes. To support these ambitions, we are, therefore, also launching calls for evidence on ending the sale of new non-zero emission coaches and minibuses.
We know that these proposals will be of great interest to stakeholders across the transport sector, particularly amongst operators and manufacturers. We welcome detailed responses, and would be grateful for any efforts to encourage interested stakeholders in your constituency to respond.
To further support our commitments, from April this year, operators will be able to take advantage of an uplift in payments for zero emission buses through the Bus Service Operators Grant. This is ahead of broader reform of the grant.
The Government’s view is that the end of sale date, and other actions set out in Bus Back Better, for example ongoing government funding and the proposed reform of the Bus Service Operators Grant in England, will stimulate innovation, investment, and demand and incentivise the market for ZEBs.
We are clear that the transition to zero emission buses will also improve the UK’s energy security, by replacing our reliance on imported oil with largely homegrown, increasingly renewable, energy sources.
The measures announced on Saturday will support the entire nation’s climate ambitions, improve transport for local communities and support high quality green jobs. We have made significant progress in decarbonising the economy, but we need to go much further to achieve net zero. This must be a collective effort. Only by delivering our commitments will we bring about the benefits for the nation as a whole.
BARONESS VERE OF NORBITON