UK government announces £120m funding for electric buses

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The UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has today (30 March 2021) launched a multimillion-pound scheme to enable local transport authorities to roll out zero-emission buses as the government continues to build back greener.

Up to £120 million is being made available through the zero-emission-buses regional area (ZEBRA) scheme, which will allow local transport authorities to bid for funding to purchase zero-emission buses, which will help to reduce the carbon emissions from their local public transport and 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.

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 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 that 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.

Grant Shapps, UK Transport Secretary

“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,” says Grant Shapps. “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.”

“Zero-emission buses are great news all round. As well as addressing climate change and air pollution, this funding will boost the bus manufacturing sector and give more passengers the best modern buses,” says Silviya Barrett, head of policy, research and projects at Campaign for Better Transport. “We’re glad that the government has appreciated the need to speed up the transition to zero-emission buses.”

The national bus strategy contains several 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.

Today’s announcement comes as Coventry recently received the historic first pot of funding from the all-electric bus towns and cities competition, giving the city £50 million of funding to revolutionise 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 specialised 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 publishes its transport decarbonisation plan, setting out how all modes of transport – sea, rail, road and aviation – can help deliver net-zero by 2050.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).