The starkest warning yet about the climate emergency was recently delivered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Its special report’s foreword includes a simple message: “Every choice matters.”
Scotland has already made a choice. It is going to fund buses’ transition to zero-emission, and modal shift. Wales has suspended roadbuilding and is formulating plans for the future of its buses. Noises thus far are largely positive, although the proof will follow.
In England, the messaging is different. £27bn is for roadbuilding. Nine times what will go to delivering policies in the National Bus Strategy (NBS) that, when the £3bn allocated is considered, are fanciful at best.
Meanwhile, the Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP) lacks substance, and the £135m to be spent on the empire-building vanity project that is Greater Manchester bus franchising will deliver a fraction of the decarbonisation that allocating it to partnership working would.
These political roadblocks prevent the coach and bus industry in England from making its potentially significant contribution to the action that the IPCC special report makes clear is now required urgently.
The scale of modal shift that Westminster speaks of in the NBS, and which was reheated in the TDP, cannot be delivered with £3bn. That is clear. Disappointment is in store for some that believe Bus Back Better will see wholesale revolution in any regard. The only way to avoid that is to align and integrate policies around climate change and public transport and drop the current silo mentality.