In the past decade there has been a green revolution in the UK bus market. Lower carbon, low emission Euro VI buses are running in most of our cities and larger urban areas, their introduction encouraged by technical developments and a supportive policy environment.
The Green Bus Fund – which ran over four rounds from 2009 – has contributed to the introduction of 1,263 buses over five years. A similar mechanism operated in Scotland, where there have so far been six rounds, funding around 270 buses.
From its inception in 2003, the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) has supported the Department for Transport in the development of the definition of a low carbon emission bus (LCEB) and in the design and introduction of incentives such as the Green Bus Fund.
A range of technologies from a variety of manufacturers have been introduced to meet the LCEB criteria (now superseded by the Low Emission Bus scheme). These include the popular diesel-electric hybrids produced by companies including Wrightbus, Alexander Dennis, Volvo and Optare; biomethane/compressed natural gas options by Scania and MAN; battery electric models from Optare, BYD, Wrightbus and Alexander Dennis; and plug-in, range-extended hybrids from Alexander Dennis and Volvo. There's also a hydrogen bus model produced by Van Hool.
The UK has become one of the leading manufacturers and adopters of low carbon and low emission buses. In 2015 around 30% of buses produced in the UK were low emission according to the LowCVP definition. About 50% of the buses operating on UK roads were British-built.
With concern growing again about the health impact of poor urban air quality (stoked by the Client Earth legal victory and the recent VW scandal), it's clear that greener buses have an important role to play in cutting local pollution and contributing to meeting climate change targets as well as saving on operating costs. The good news on urban pollution (and for British manufacturing) is that rapid progress in technical development and innovation in the sector means that there are now low emission bus options suitable for every type of operation. A 2013 study by Ricardo for the LowCVP resulted in the publication of A Low Carbon Technology Roadmap for Buses which provided a basis for the development of later bus sector policy. A further report looked at the air pollution impact of a variety of low carbon bus technologies, showing that in almost all types of operation the latest technology can help to meet both air quality and climate change objectives.
The LowCVP has been leading in discussions about bus service operators grant, to help make sure that the revision of the subsidy scheme does not discourage the uptake of low emission buses.
Recently, the Office of Low Emission Vehicles introduced a £30m Low Emission Bus Scheme to further support the purchase of low and ultra-low emission buses by local authorities and transport operators.
The 2016 UK Bus Summit will provide an excellent opportunity for local authorities and bus operators to learn more about the availability of low emission bus technology and fuels and to meet suppliers who can advise on how to achieve their operational requirements.
With the focus of the conference this year on devolution and proposals in the Buses Bill (giving combined authorities with an elected mayor powers to franchise bus services) the agenda should be of even more relevance to all those with a role in improving local air quality as well as contributing to CO2 reduction plans, recently reaffirmed at the Paris climate summit.
Reference: Transport Times, UK Bus Supplement 2016
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