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National Bus Strategy

Volume 680: debated on Thursday 17 September 2020

Covid is creating huge challenges for our bus network, and if we are serious about improving services after the pandemic, we need a commitment to long-term investment from all tiers of government. In South Yorkshire, we have produced an improvement plan for our buses, but we need support. So I ask the Secretary of State: when will we see more investment from Government for the sustainable, affordable and accessible bus service that we all want?

I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to his bus review report, which I have read. It is very impressive. We share the ambition to do much of what he has just said. The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive has received a £1.127 million grant, as he will know, and the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority has been allocated £703,614. We are putting our money where our mouth is. We will publish our national bus strategy, and I think he will find that it complements the bus review report that he is behind.

Bus manufacturing is a key industry and companies such as Alexander Dennis, despite being world leading, face huge challenges. The Scottish Government recently announced millions of pounds of funding for ultra low emission vehicles, which is vital not just to the bus industry but to communities and businesses across the country. Will the Secretary of State please accept that our bus industry is teetering on the brink and needs a green bus fund rolled out now, not after Alexander Dennis and other companies like it are gone?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the need not only to build buses but to turn them into green ones. That is why the extraordinary investment we are making—sufficient to build 4,000 buses—will come forward as part of the national bus strategy. It is important to recognise that there is huge turmoil, not just in the bus sector, because of the ridership figures. I mentioned the ridership figures for trains a moment ago, and it is right to inform the House that ridership on non-London buses has now gone back up to 58%. It is increasing, but that is all in the context of how we take the bus sector forward, and we will say much more about it very soon.