The Secretary of Transport announced funding of up to £129 million to assist local transport authorities in introducing hundreds of zero-emission buses.
These new vehicles will promote economic growth by connecting communities, enabling people to commute to work or university while also boosting the UK’s manufacturing industry.
To ensure that more parts of England benefit from green technology, particularly remote areas where building the necessary bus infrastructure is costlier, the government has allocated the first £25 million for rural communities.
The Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) 2 plan is now open for bids from all local authorities in England (outside London), with priority given to applications from those that haven’t received previous funding.
Authorities aim to ensure that more people can enjoy clean transportation.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said, “We have already met our initial goal of funding at least 4,000 zero-emission buses, and this additional funding will enhance the journeys of even more passengers, reaching the most remote areas.”
Harper also announced the launch of a new research center, supported by £10 million in funding from the Department of Transport, National Highways, HS2 Ltd, Network Rail, and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
The University of Newcastle, Heriot-Watt University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Glasgow have received funding to establish the Net Zero Transport for a Resilient Future Center, where they will develop innovative ideas to ensure future transport infrastructure is resilient and low in carbon emissions.
“Our Net Zero Transport center will be an academic center of excellence that will help us maintain our resilient transportation network in the future,” Harper stated.
Bus Minister Richard Holden commented, “It’s been fantastic to be at Alexander Dennis and see how our £129 million investment will impact British bus manufacturing. This brings our total investment in new zero-emission vehicles to nearly £500 million. We are leading the way in ensuring Britain can harness highly skilled manufacturing while providing cleaner public transport for passengers nationwide.”
This second phase of the ZEBRA plan builds on the success of the first round of funding, which financed 1,300 zero-emission buses.
Through millions of pounds in investment, the government has achieved its initial goal of funding 4,000 zero-emission buses, bringing the country closer to a fully decarbonized fleet.
This is in addition to the £3.5 billion already invested in improving bus services since 2020.
Furthermore, the government recently announced an additional £500 million to cap fares at £2 until the end of October 2023, and then at £2.50 until November 2024.
Paul Davies, President and CEO of Alexander Dennis, said, “It has been a pleasure to welcome the Minister to our Scarborough factory, which is an excellent example of how government investment in zero-emission buses can support communities across the country when it benefits national manufacturers like us.”
“Our next-generation vehicles are ready to support council ZEBRA 2 offerings, including the innovative Alexander Dennis Enviro100EV, which is suitable for efficiently providing emissions-free mobility to rural communities,” he added.
Alison Edwards, Director of Policy at the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), said, “We welcome the announcement of increased government funding for zero-emission buses. These have a crucial role to play in helping the UK meet its decarbonization goals.”
“We are pleased that the prioritization of rural bus services in the bidding process recognizes the challenges faced by these operators. To help address them, CPT has established a Working Group that will seek to identify the practical solutions required for rural areas,” she added.
More about the research center
The funds for the research center will be used to develop new ways of modeling cities and towns and understanding how vital structures like bridges and railway lines can cope with severe weather phenomena such as floods.
The center will collaborate with local authorities and the industry to identify practical opportunities to facilitate people’s travel with more options and fewer disruptions.
By establishing the technology in the UK, the research center will create new research jobs and build the talent base by providing enhanced training to develop a highly skilled workforce.
Professor Miles Padgett, Interim CEO of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UKRI, said, “A low-carbon transport infrastructure that works well is vital to sustain communities and economies.”
Professor Phil Blythe CBE, Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems and Director of the Future Mobility Group at the University of Newcastle, said, “We are delighted to have been awarded the center, which will be the national focus for research into how to decarbonize and make our transport infrastructure more resilient.”
“The center will engage widely to bring together leading academics from across the UK and their civic and industrial partners so that we can focus on understanding the underlying science and engineering that will enable us to address these real challenges and provide the models that will help us understand the impact and find the most suitable solutions,” he added.