Bus leasing scheme proposal to deliver ZE ambitions

The bus industry has proposed a £2bn leasing scheme to deliver the 4,000 zero-emission buses in England that form a central part of a wider government funding package for the sector.

The investment required is split equally between private sector cash and government money that has already been earmarked for buses, plans announced by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) show.

CPT says that a grant funding mechanism for zero-emission buses is now “unsuitable.” That is because of the financial constraints brought on by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and the need for significant up-front investment from operators that grant funding entails.

The alternative bus leasing scheme calls for banks or other financial institutions to purchase the vehicles. Operators will run and maintain them while providing a guarantee over asset usage.

Data from CPT shows that the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has led to orders for around 2,750 buses being “reduced or cancelled entirely.” As a result, 10,000 jobs and apprenticeships are under threat in the domestic bus manufacturing industry.

If the £1bn of existing government money required for the leasing scheme is fast-tracked, CPT says that “at least” 4,000 zero-emission buses could be delivered by 2024.

Adds Chief Executive Graham Vidler: “The industry remains committed to ensuring that from 2025, every new bus on our roads will be ultra-low- or zero-emission. Our new proposals kick-start that process.”

Both First Bus and National Express have already announced plans to move entirely to zero-emission fleets in the long-term.

CPT has also highlighted the need to encourage passengers back to buses in the wake of the government’s advice to avoid public transport. Some studies suggest that 1m more cars could be on the road post-pandemic.