Norman Baker MP writes… Green light for more green buses

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

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  • All very nice, but this is happening against a backdrop of local authorities being squeezed into cutting running subsidies – for example, Cambridgeshire cutting *all* its supported services. If you want to make them easier to use, then first of all you actually have to run them to each community at a level which people will find acceptably useful. Perhaps we could have actual figures for carbon savings from shiny new buses, set against carbon losses from places where people no longer have any choice about using their car, or taxis?

  • Helen Flynn 8th Nov '12 - 8:30am

    This is great news. As you say young people are significant users of buses, yet currently have to pay high fares, as there is no national scheme for young people.
    Young people are the future bus market and the key to long term sustainable transport . I am chair of a rural transport group (DITA) which has just introduced a £1 flat fare for under-19’s. We think this has the potential to pay for itself and the pilot will run for a year. Find out more at
    The DITA scheme, by the way, is an imaginative use of Local Sustainable Transport Funds, another Norman Baker initiative.

  • I am always concerned at public funds being used to provide for a privately operated industry. Seed funding to get something started is one thing, but we now need an undertaking from the operators and bus manufacturers, and a clause in all future contracts that requires all vehicles to be low carbon.

  • @Peter – so you neglect the substantial embedded carbon in a new vehicle, and the cost of replacing vehicles before they reach their expected life? By all means push for new deliveries to be hybrids where they go to intensive (and profitable) service in large urban areas, and gradually work their way through the national fleet in the same way as accessible low floors did. Piling this sort of cost on to rural areas, though, will kill the bus where it is already marginal or subsidised as a social necessity.

    Oh, and there haven’t been “contracts” outside London for services, other than those which need subsidy, since the 1985 Transport Act. You know, the wonders of the free market and all that.

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