Bus builder wants to lock in benefits of improved air quality in UK towns and cities, and return investment in new buses to traditional levels

 
ADL says that battery electric buses are “available in volume supported by proven expertise in rolling out fleets”, but hydrogen buses “will play a role”

 
Britain’s largest bus builder has today announced a vision for the transformation of buses in the United Kingdom which could see at least 10,000 new low, ultra low and zero emission buses in service within the next four years. The first of them would hit the road before the end of the year to help maintain the benefits of lower pollution and better air quality towns and cities have experienced during the coronavirus lockdown.

Larbert-based Alexander Dennis Limited has come forward with its own vision after Jo Bamford, owner of rival firm Wrightbus, announced plans for a UK-built, 3,000-strong hydrogen bus fleet across the country last month.

Bamford has since joined with industry leaders, campaign groups and academics to challenge the government’s “deliberate” and “misjudged” bias against hydrogen buses in its pursuit of decarbonising public transport.

ADL, a subsidiary of NFI Group Inc, one of the world’s largest independent global bus manufacturers, claims to offer the widest range of technology solutions, including low emission buses, ultra low emission electric range hybrids and zero emission battery as well as hydrogen fuel cell buses.

It maintains that battery electric buses are “available in volume supported by proven expertise in rolling out fleets”. Hydrogen buses “will play a role for routes requiring additional range and they will be ready when a fuelling infrastructure and a sustainable supply of green hydrogen have been put in place”.

We are supportive of all cutting edge clean bus technologies and recognise that one size does not fit all

ADL chief executive Colin Robertson explained: “We are supportive of all cutting edge clean bus technologies and recognise that one size does not fit all, which is why we have developed a choice of solutions which meet cities and operators’ individual requirements and priorities – whether that is air quality targets, carbon reduction, interior layouts, acquisition costs, total cost of ownership, or a blend of all of these.

“We have invested tens of millions in innovation – our solutions are road-ready to be delivered at scale with the reassurance that they will perform as required.”

ADL says that the coronavirus lockdown has shown the liveability of towns and cities “free from the chokehold of traffic congestion”, as people stayed at home to protect the NHS and save lives. With over 60% of UK road transport emissions in normal times caused by cars – compared with under 3% caused by buses – the result has been a stark improvement in air quality.

“There is strong public support for locking in these benefits through and beyond the post-coronavirus recovery to keep a healthier environment and continue the fight against climate change,”.

Along with active travel and other modes of public transport, buses are a crucial part of the solution. As a society, we need to act immediately and deliver benefits as quickly as possible to minimise the deterioration of air quality when the economy restarts

“Along with active travel and other modes of public transport, buses are a crucial part of the solution. As a society, we need to act immediately and deliver benefits as quickly as possible to minimise the deterioration of air quality when the economy restarts.”

ADL says that “at least 10,000” new UK-built low, ultra low and zero emission buses could be in service within the next four years. Combining different available technologies results in a highly deliverable proposal with immediate benefits.

This volume of new vehicles would approach normal levels of investment. UK operators historically registered between 2,500 and 3,000 new buses per year, although in the last two years this fell to under 2,000 buses due to the impact of previous governments’ cuts to support and socially necessary services.

Brand new low and ultra low emission buses could be ready before the end of the year to take older buses with ageing diesel engines off the streets, or to offer additional capacity to facilitate social distancing. These ultra low emission buses could bring self-charged zero emission electric range capability – completely cutting out emissions on high streets, near schools or at hospitals – “without losing time to infrastructure planning and installation”.

UK bus manufacturers including ADL have the production capacity to meet this demand. ADL says that further investment to speed up the decarbonisation of transport could “create additional highly skilled jobs in a world-class industry”. ADL employs 2,500 staff in the UK and supports a further 12,500 jobs in the broader supply chain. Its UK production capacity of over 1,500 buses per year could be increased to provide the benefits of cleaner buses on a wide scale.

“The UK Government’s earlier £5bn pledge for buses and cycling recognises the need to invest in active and sustainable models of travel,” said Robertson. “This is now more imperative than ever as the economy emerges from the impact of coronavirus.

We urge the UK Government and devolved administrations to speed up the transition to cleaner transport by accelerating the funding earmarked for zero emission buses

“We urge the UK Government and devolved administrations to speed up the transition to cleaner transport by accelerating the funding earmarked for zero emission buses and assuring health benefits from an immediate positive impact on air quality can be delivered by low and ultra low emission buses that could be in service before the end of this year.”

Clean, spacious and well-equipped buses would also serve to reassure passengers of a safe journey – with social distancing as required – to places of work, high streets, shopping centres and leisure activities, helping the economic recovery of the nation.

Bus manufacturing represents more than 10% of the UK’s motor industry employment total and bus manufacturers meet more than three quarters of domestic demand, keeping investment in the country. A healthy home market is crucial to a vibrant UK bus manufacturing industry as it enables it to export its products.

We are ready to deliver for the nation

“ADL has a proud history of working with the industry, not just for the industry but for the nation,” said Robertson.

“We have shared these proposals with senior ministers in the UK and Scottish Governments to show how our industry can lead post-coronavirus economic recovery to deliver health benefits for the entire country. The realisation of our proposals can begin immediately, and they could be scaled up in size and ambition to match councils’ and governments’ decarbonisation targets. We are ready to deliver for the nation.”

 
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