Transform policy officer Laura Hyde-White reports on the Cross-Party Group for Sustainable Transport’s latest evidence session, which focused on the decarbonisation of Scotland’s bus fleet.
We’re raising awareness and stimulating debate about the opportunities and challenges of transitioning to zero-carbon railways, bus fleets and ferries as part of the CPG on Sustainable Transport’s inquiry into the decarbonisation of Scotland’s public transport.
Transform Scotland provides the secretariat for the Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Group on Sustainable Transport. The group will meet for three evidence sessions in Spring 2023 before calling for evidence and preparing a report to be launched in the autumn. The first session, on rail decarbonisation was held last month – read more about the previous meeting and the inquiry here.
On Tuesday 30 May the group held its second evidence session. This meeting focused on bus decarbonisation and heard from three speakers from different parts of the bus industry:
Sara Collier – representing Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), the trade association for bus and coach operators and suppliers.
Jude Balfour – responsible for delivery of all First Bus zero emission vehicles and infrastructure in Scotland.
Debbie McCreath – representing Alexander Dennis, the UK’s largest bus and coach manufacturer, with bases in Scotland at Larbert and Falkirk.
Sara Collier (CPT) first outlined the climate case for decarbonisation, stating that:
- the transport sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Scotland
- 80% of public transport journeys in Scotland are by bus
- bus and coach travel is responsible for only 5% of road transport emissions
- modal shift away from car transport is crucial
She highlighted the Government’s commitment to bus decarbonisation – to remove the majority of diesel buses by the end of 2023 – and noted that Transform Scotland’s research in 2022 revealed that this target is set to be missed, with only 16% of buses looking to be electric or hydrogen by this time.
Sara also spoke on the Bus Decarbonisation Taskforce‘s work to adopt a whole systems approach to the transition and provided an overview of the support provided by the Scottish Government such as the Network Support Grant and the SULEB and ScotZEB schemes. Sara noted that the second phase of ScotZEB will close in September with the Scottish Government stating a desire that the market will be self-sustaining after this.
Jude Balfour (First Bus) subsequently spoke on bus decarbonisation in practice. Specifically, she reported on First Bus’ various trials across the UK of hydrogen, biogas, battery, and electric vehicles as well as their pathfinder project at the Caledonia Depot in Glasgow, from which they are running 150 electric buses.
She added that First Glasgow has spent more than its operating profit on EV investment in the last three years alongside funding from SULEB, Scottish Power Energy Networks, and Ofgem. She also noted the benefits for the community, including air quality improvements and up-skilling for engineers maintaining electric vehicles and associated infrastructure.
Debbie McCreath (Alexander Dennis) spoke from a manufacturing perspective and reported on recent developments at AD, including the expansion of their Larbert facility and meeting the demand for smaller zero-emission buses.
Debbie advised that buses sold to Stagecoach mean that all local services in Perth are electric with their zero emission buses also in Dunfermline, Aberdeen, and Ayrshire. Meanwhile, electric bus orders have been received from Birmingham as well as Greater Manchester and First Bus have received funding from the UK Government. She added that ScotZEB produced faster results than the equivalent UK scheme.
The presentations were followed by a Q&A segment which saw discussion on:
- Potential restrictions of funding criteria
- How to improve electricity supply
- The challenges for rural locations and smaller operators
- The impact of heavier electric vehicles on the roads and non-exhaust emissions
- Potential partnerships with smaller operators and communities
- Potential impact on modal shift
Listen to the discussion in full at the link below.