One council in England could secure up to £50m to switch all their local buses to run on batteries by 2025 through a new government competition
The government is offering up to £50m to create England's 'first all-electric bus town' as part of a new funding competition launched today that aims to catalyse the development of greener and more reliable local transport networks.
Local authorities can apply for the new funding from today, with the winning council set to receive support to rollout a brand new fleet of electric buses in their local area, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost air quality, according to the Department for Transport (DfT).
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the aim of the £50m competition was to set the "gold standard" in environmentally-friendly public transport, and would help to realise the government's ambition for all buses in England to run on electricity by 2025.
"Buses carry more people than any other form of public transport in the UK, and with 200 electric buses able to offset 3,700 diesel cars, it is clear they have a crucial role to play in bringing down emissions," he said. "By focusing on efficient and affordable transport, we will make greener journeys the natural choice."
The electric bus town funding competition forms part of a wider £220m package of support to improve local bus services, which was first announced by the Chancellor Sajid Javid last September. It builds on the previous Green Bus Fund, which has supported hundreds of low and zero emission buses across the country over recent years.
DfT revealed today £20m of the overall package would also go towards a new fund to encourage the development and trial of on-demand ride-sharing services in rural and suburban areas, while another £70m would be aimed at developing local 'superbus' networks of more frequent services and more bus lanes. A further £30m is aimed at helping councils improve existing bus services or revive those that have been lost, it said.
Later this year DfT said it also planned to launch a new long-term bus strategy and funding plan to "ensure that buses are prioritised in the future".
The move comes in the same week as the British Health Foundation warned 15 million people in the UK still live in areas where average levels of PM2.5 exceed World Health Foundation guidelines. It also follows criticism from Labour that the government is not moving fast enough to decarbonise bus networks, after the opposition made plans to electrify the entire UK bus fleet by 2030 a key part of its manifesto last year.
A growing number of cities around the world are ordering large all-electric bus fleets as city authorities seek to tackle emissions and air pollution, while also taking advantage of lower fuel and running costs.
Daniel Brown, policy manager and EV lead at the Renewable Energy Association (REA), welcomed the government's "forward-thinking initiative" to help councils rollout electric buses and deliver on net zero ambitions.
"Bus decarbonisation is a great area for government to target - conventional buses represent a major source of urban air quality issues and they are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions," he said. "By taking a joined-up view and supporting both the infrastructure and vehicles, the government is demonstrating its commitment to building a world-class EV infrastructure network whilst creating green jobs. We hope such a project will demonstrate the efficacy and affordability of electric buses, which will help the private sector replicate this project in other communities."
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