A five-year funding commitment for buses, greater investment for the South and East of England and a fuel duty incentive for coach operators to switch to low-carbon fuels are among the appeals made by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) in its submission ahead of the government’s Autumn Statement.
CPT also requests that the Chancellor in his statement on 22 November gives attention to tackling congestion to increase bus speeds, legislation over socially and economically necessary bus services and long-term funding for zero-emissions bus strategy.
The body welcomes the 21-month funding for buses announced this year but calls on the government to give five-year commitments. The document reads: “The sector requires a five year settlement (in line with the rail sector) that will provide bus operators and local transport authorities with the confidence to plan longer-term bus investment whilst continuing to deliver good services for passengers.”
It says £400 million, adjusted for inflation, would be needed to enable operators and local authorities to continue to provide broadly the same level of service.
Further to the £930 million for Bus Service Improvement Plans for the North and Midlands announced in the wake of HS2 savings, CPT urges that this be matched across the country. “The equivalent per capita investment for the East and South of England would amount to around £750m,” the submission reads.
As an illustration, it claims this could fund an additional 300 million km of bus journeys, which would be worth £3.36 billion to the economy.
CPT also asks for clarity over key dates and measures for its net-zero strategy for coaches. It requests public investment in refuelling and recharging infrastructure and in research and development aimed at improving range.
It also cites need for a fuel duty discount to incentivise coach operators to use low-carbon fuels. It says the amount of discount should be proportional to the amount of greenhouse gas savings made. It explains: “For example, a company running on 100% HVO, which delivers 90% GHG savings, would receive a 14ppl discount, whereas if they were running on a 20% blend, they would receive a 4ppl discount.”
The submission calls for support for coaches in Clean Air Zone (CAZ) and Low Emissions Zones (LEZ) strategies. Specifically, it refers to the creation of a new class of CAZ or LEZ that would enable cars to be charged or banned without also targeting coaches and buses. Also argued for is retrofit funding for the 5,000 suitable Euro IV and Euro V coaches in the UK, with £75 million calculated to be needed.
Combating falling speeds should be another consideration for the treasury, says CPT. Tackling congestion is the biggest single policy measure to cut bus journey times, make bus more attractive and boost the economy, it highlights.
Referring to rural bus services, CPT writes “Local Transport Authorities being legally required to provide these services would ensure the long term security of many bus routes that are vital for communities, particularly in rural and hard to reach areas.”
When it comes to the transition to zero-emissions for buses, the submission says that future funding for vehicles and infrastructure should be “long-term and predictable and transition away from bidding rounds to give certainty to operators”. It calls for the government to “accelerate the Local Integrated Transport Settlements to enable these funds to be used to submit bids for ZEBRA 2 (Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas)”.
CPT says its own review reveals there is not yet a clear business case for operators for switching from diesel to zero-emissions. This strengthens the need for a long-term plan, the document says. It adds: “We estimate that around £200 million a year on top of the investment that operators will make renewing their fleets could help to enable all new vehicle purchases to be zero emission, leading to a fully zero emission bus fleet by 2034.”