Boris Johnson’s pledge to build 4,000 zero-emission buses makes no progress | Transport
One of Boris Johnson’s flagship ‘green’ pledges – to deliver 4,000 new UK-built zero-emission buses by the end of 2024 – has been seriously doubted by UK carmakers who say they have not yet received any orders new vehicles.
MPs and campaigners are pressing ministers for information on when money will be committed to enable the manufacture of zero-emission buses, which the Prime Minister has promised will be part of a transport revolution greens during his first term in Downing Street. He made the pledge in February 2020, just before the Covid pandemic hit, when he was keen to promote his environmental credentials and show how green policies could benefit people’s lives while boosting UK businesses.
Since then only a fraction of the funds needed have been allocated, with £320million committed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak during last autumn’s spending review, for an estimated total of £4billion needed to put 4,000 green buses on the road.
British manufacturers say that unless funds are committed and orders are placed quickly, there will be no time to get the new vehicles into service in time to deliver on Johnson’s promise.
Paul Davies, managing director of bus builder Alexander Dennis, which is the UK’s largest bus builder and the world’s largest manufacturer of double-decker buses, said: “The problem is that we are running out of time to deliver on our promises. If everything is left until the last minute, the danger is that we will have to turn to overseas companies for faster and cheaper options when the intention was for them to be made in Britain.
Buta Atwal, chief executive of another major bus maker, Wrightbus, said he was encouraged by Johnson’s announcement two years ago but was disappointed not to hear any news positive on orders since. “We have invested heavily in zero-emission technology based on government plans. so we are looking forward to the first order.
Paul Tuohy, Managing Director of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “It is clear from our work with bus operators, local authorities, utility companies and others involved in providing bus services that we are currently not on track to deliver nearly enough zero-emission buses anywhere near fast enough.
“The government needs to step in to offer more support to the industry in the long term and do more to increase passenger numbers in the short term to give operators the confidence to invest.”
Ghost bus minister MP Sam Tarry said ministers had misled parliament about the scheme. “British manufacturers tell me they haven’t received a single order. More than two years have passed since the Prime Minister promised there would be 4,000 zero-emission buses on our roads by 2025.
“They are clearly way off target and this is yet another sign that they are not serious about their commitment to decarbonizing our economy and reaching our goal of net zero by 2050, and they are not. serious about supporting UK manufacturing and jobs.”
The Campaign for Better Transport said that of the 38,000 buses nationwide, currently only 12% are hybrid and 2% are zero emissions (4% in London and 1% in the rest of England).
In the recent white paper on the upgrade, ministers said that “over £500million is being spent in this parliament on the delivery of zero-emission buses”.
Labor say it shows the government is already backing away from previous commitments because it would only allow a tiny fraction of the promised number to be made.
Announcing his bus strategy last year, Johnson said: ‘I love buses and I’ve never quite understood why so few governments before mine have felt the same way’, adding that ‘better buses will be one of our major upgrade acts.” .
A DfT spokesman said: “The Government remains committed to supporting the introduction of 4,000 zero-emission buses and achieving a fully zero-emission bus fleet. This will support our climate ambitions, improve transport for local communities and support high quality green jobs.