Mellor says that support is growing for its call to the Department for Transport (DfT) to rethink the decision to exclude minibuses with a capacity of fewer than 23 passengers from the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme.
In early April, Mark Clissett, Bus Division Managing Director at Mellor parent Woodall Nicholson, articulated strong criticism of DfT’s failure to include some minibuses within the scope of ZEBRA. Those views have now been raised in the House of Commons by Shadow Transport Minister Sam Tarry MP. They have also gained “substantial backing” from industry stakeholders.
ZEBRA will provide funding towards up to 500 zero-emission buses. It is a key part of the National Bus Strategy for England. In his stinging earlier attack, Mr Clissett described the decision to exclude some minibuses as “big bus bias.” He has since added to that by accusing DfT of “ignoring the pivotal role of the small bus sector,” describing the decision as “an intolerable snub.”
In addition to Mr Tarry, representatives of Bus Users, the Community Transport Association (CTA) and countryside charity CPRE have spoken in support of the Rochdale-based manufacturer’s calls for a rethink.
Says CTA Chief Executive Bill Freeman:” Smaller buses are vital for the provision of accessible and inclusive transport all over the UK for those who are excluded from the conventional transport network. It is vital that the role of smaller buses and their importance in the community transport sector and to communities across the country is recognised through equal funding opportunities.”
Mellor says that there are 80,000 small buses in the UK. Mr Clissett acknowledges that public money should go towards transitioning fleets of large buses to zero-emission, but he has questioned why local authorities are not able to decide where funding should go. Mr Clissett also recently called on the minibus industry to work together to further the case for all of its zero-emission vehicles to be eligible for ZEBRA.
Mellor points to its battery-electric Orion E minibus (pictured) as being “ideal” for receipt of ZEBRA funding – but with a maximum passenger capacity of 16, it is not eligible.