Future of New Non-Zero Emission Buses, Coaches, and Minibuses Still Unclear

Author: Tim Deakin

Date Published: November 22, 2023

The transport sector is buzzing with the ongoing transition to greener alternatives, yet the road ahead for non-zero emission buses, coaches, and minibuses remains shrouded in uncertainty. Despite significant developments and debates, there is still no definitive end date set for the sale of these vehicles.

In a recent interaction with the Transport Committee on November 15, Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper did not provide specific details on the target dates for phasing out non-zero-emission buses and similar vehicles. Harper emphasized the government’s approach of not rushing into setting a date without thorough consideration, indicating that targets for buses and other related vehicles will be announced in due course.

This stance was echoed during the committee’s discussion, where Gavin Newlands MP highlighted the slow pace in defining an end date for buses, questioning if the previously discussed window between 2025 and 2032 was still in play. The government’s consultation in March 2022 had shown support for this timeframe, with 2032 being the latest proposed deadline. However, recent shifts in policies for diesel and petrol cars by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, pushing their end date to 2035, have cast doubts over the timelines for buses.

The delay in clarity extends beyond buses to coaches and minibuses. Despite a closed consultation in May 2022 and promises of a response within three months, the government has yet to release its findings or next steps, now overdue by over a year.

Then-Under Secretary of State for Transport Richard Holden, in June, mentioned an upcoming announcement regarding the bus end date, stressing its priority for Harper. This period also saw the Institute for Public Policy Research advocating for an end to new diesel bus sales by 2030, favoring battery-electric vehicles. Conversely, the trade body ALBUM advised against setting an end date until a clear, optimal pathway to zero emissions is established.

The same 2022 consultation also sought evidence on ending sales of new non-zero-emission coaches and minibuses. While the 2040 backstop for all new non-zero-emission road vehicles seems probable for coaches, the government’s response to this and the direction for minibuses remain unknown, even though coaches are expected to follow the decarbonisation trajectory of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).

The journey towards a sustainable transport sector is imperative, and setting clear, achievable goals for phasing out non-zero-emission vehicles is crucial. As the industry awaits more concrete steps from the government, the hope is for a balanced approach that considers both environmental imperatives and the practicalities of transition.