Last year there were an estimated 2.3 billion bus passenger journeys in England. More people up and down the country get to work by bus than by all other forms of public transport combined, and over 50% of students use them to get to classrooms and lectures. More than that, they provide a life-line for rural communities and just as vital in cities in terms of reducing traffic jams and air pollution by getting people out of cars. But even while people are reducing their carbon emissions by hopping on the bus rather than using their cars, we want to make buses themselves greener, more efficient and easier to use.
As a Liberal Democrat minister fighting for the environment, for jobs and for passengers, I am very pleased to announce that the Coalition Government is investing another £20m in the Green Bus Fund, on top of the £31m I announced in March, to help bus companies and local authorities in England boost the number of state-of-the-art, low carbon buses on our roads.
This fourth round of funding will help finance a further 300 low carbon buses, which will be good news both for reducing carbon emissions and for helping to support UK bus manufacturers and the wider bus industry. These cleaner buses will replace older, more polluting buses on routes across the country – take a look at the locations of the successful bidders that have already benefited from the Green Bus Fund and you’ll see they’re already running in places as diverse as Darlington, Brighton, Great Yarmouth and Manchester to name but four.
For a long time, Liberal Democrats have campaigned relentlessly for better public transport and this is just one aspect of a wider set of low carbon transport initiatives including the Local Sustainable Transport Fund and the massive investment in the rail network that we are delivering in government.
The future of public transport has to be green, modern and efficient and I am convinced that buses have a major role to play in the transition to a low carbon, integrated transport system.
* Norman Baker is the MP for Lewes, a Minister of State at the Home Office and formerly Minister in the Department of Transport