As the UK government plans to ‘build back greener’ and aim to be net-zero by 2050, it has announced a £120m scheme to help roll out zero-emission buses across England.
Local transport authorities will benefit from the new funding initiative known as ZEBRA (Zero Emissions Buses Regional Area), which will allow them to bid for funding to purchase zero emission buses, in an effort to reduce the carbon emissions from their local public transport and to improve air quality in towns and cities across England.
The funding will deliver up to 500 zero emission buses, supporting the Government’s wider commitment to introduce 4,000 zero emission buses. The funding comes from the wider £3 billion fund announced by the Government to improve bus services in our national bus strategy, published on 15 March.
The major new strategy, the biggest shake up to the standard of bus services in the country for a generation, will see passengers benefit from lower, simpler flat fares, more frequent services, and new requirements that will see councils set yearly targets for improving reliability of services.
To ensure the funding from today’s zero emission bus fund is used quickly to help provide British bus manufacturers with an injection of orders, the Government is calling on a consortia of local transport authorities, energy companies, bus operators and manufacturers to come together to work up strong cases for funding. This will help make sure that buses are built, bought and being driven on our roads efficiently to the benefit of local economies and communities.
Bidders will have until 21 May 2021 to submit Expressions of Interest for a Fast Track process – which will allow local transport authorities with well-developed proposals to move quickly in their bid to secure funding. However, the Government has said it wants all local authorities to have the opportunity to submit bids and therefore those who need more time to develop their proposals will have until 25 June 2021 to submit Expressions of Interest.
“We’ve set out our vision of how we’re going to make buses better in this country, and now we’re getting on with delivering it. The launch of the scheme today means we’re giving businesses and local authorities the tools to help deliver the 4,000 zero emission buses we said we would introduce, which will dramatically improve air quality in towns and cities across the country, helping us achieve our net-zero ambitions,” said UK transport secretary Grant Shapps.
The National Bus Strategy contains a number of pledges to improve the environmental friendliness of the country’s bus sector. This includes a consultation on the end date for sales of diesel buses, which was launched alongside the strategy.
The announcement comes as Coventry recently received the historic first pot of funding from the All-Electric Bus Towns and Cities competition, giving the city £50m of funding to revolutionize its bus services and entirely replace their current fleet with electric buses.
It also comes as the Government announces over £30 million of funding to support pioneering research into battery technology, the electric vehicle supply chain and hydrogen vehicles. Twenty-two studies will receive a share of £9.4 million, including proposals to build a plant in Cornwall that will extract lithium for use in electric vehicle batteries, a plant to build specialized magnets for electric vehicle motors in Cheshire and lightweight hydrogen storage for cars and vans in Loughborough.
Funding from the ZEBRA scheme will help the UK build back greener as the Government prepares to publish its Transport Decarbonisation Plan, setting out how all modes of transport – sea, rail, road and aviation – can help deliver net-zero by 2050.