A lack of clarity remains on both the setting of an end date for the sale of new non-zero-emission buses, and what direction the same policy for coaches and minibuses will take, after Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper gave no concrete information to the Transport Committee when questioned on 15 November.
Mr Harper says that he will outline “what targets we are going to set for buses and other things in due course,” but that the government will not “pluck a date out of the air” for delivering that.
Committee member Gavin Newlands MP had earlier observed that defining the end date for buses has become a slow process, and enquired of Mr Harper whether the intention is still to set such a cut-off between 2025 and 2032.
In a consultation published in March 2022, the government noted that earlier work had shown that the dates with the broadest support for the measure for buses to come into force “were from 2025 to 2030.”
2032 was cited as “the very latest” point at which it could be introduced, but that was prior to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s more recent delaying to 2035 the end date for the sale of new diesel and petrol cars. The Department for Transport has been unable to clarify what, if any, effect that change will have on bus policy.
The consultation closed on 21 May 2022, with a government response and the next steps said to be outlined within three months. Release of that is thus now well over a year late, and Mr Harper gave no indication of when it may be forthcoming.
On 29 June, then-Under Secretary of State for Transport Richard Holden said that the bus end date was to be announced “within the next few months,” adding that completing such work was a priority of Mr Harper.
At around the same time, the Institute for Public Policy Research called for the end of the sale of new diesel buses to come in 2030 via a report that also advocated the favour of battery-electric as the future default energy source. However, trade body ALBUM has urged that no end date to be set until clarity on the optimum zero-emission pathway exists.
While buses have dominated the political narrative around end dates, the same consultation published in 2022 captured a call for evidence (CfE) on ending the sale of new non-zero-emission coaches and minibuses.
While it appears likely that the date for coaches will be the cited backstop of 2040 for all new non-zero-emission road vehicles, the government has neither responded to the CfE nor provided further information on its line of thinking for coach or minibus, despite Mr Holden previously noting a likelihood of coaches following the HGV decarbonisation trajectory.