Building a sustainable future with British bus manufacturing 12/11/2020

In our third ‘future of fuel’ blog Paul Davies, President & Managing Director of Alexander Dennis Limited, writes about the need for investment in sustainable buses, and how it is vital for the Government to take action.

As the United Kingdom considers ways to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, we cannot lose sight of the effects that transport choices have on the twin challenges of the climate emergency and air pollution.

It is therefore more imperative than ever to ensure that buses are an attractive choice with high quality services underpinned by appropriate priority and infrastructure, and delivered with state-of-the-art low and zero emission buses.

Yet the UK Government is in danger of permanently damaging British bus manufacturing and its wider supply chain. The loss of fare revenue as a result of the pandemic has left bus operators unable to invest, leading to a precipitous drop in demand for new buses that has hit the industry hard as production facilities cannot simply be turned on and off overnight. There is a real threat of irreversible damage to a sector of industry that has consistently been a world leader in innovation for cleaner technologies and improved passenger comfort.

Investment in clean buses will bring back much-needed demand in a sector that was thriving before coronavirus and whose expertise and capacity will be essential the United Kingdom seeks to build a more sustainable future with a focus on achieving net zero carbon emissions.

Delivering on the Prime Minister’s earlier pledge of 4,000 zero emission buses is now more important than ever, yet the ongoing delay in its implementation means it is now unlikely that we will see any of these buses on UK roads before 2022 or even later. Timescales have equally slipped on the competition to develop England’s first All-Electric Bus Town. At this pace, by the time these schemes are fulfilled, the buses will have to be imported as the UK bus industry will have been decimated.

All Alexander Dennis low and zero emission buses are built in Britain using world-class technology, and our Plaxton brand is the last manufacturer of full-size coaches in this country. An investment in British-built low and zero emission buses is an investment in communities that benefits the nation’s economy.

British bus manufacturing is ready to deliver on the nation’s decarbonisation agenda and drive growth in Global Britain – if UK Government inaction does not cause permanent damage to our industry now. More than ever, time is of the essence.