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Low-emission Buses: Local Authorities

Volume 736: debated on Thursday 13 July 2023

6. What steps his Department is taking to support local authorities to transition to low-emission buses. (905930)

Our policy has been to support the introduction of zero-emission buses, which will reduce emissions, support manufacturing and improve the passenger experience. The Government are committed to supporting the introduction of 4,000 zero-emission buses and achieving an all zero-emission bus fleet across the UK. I am pleased to inform the House that since February 2020, an estimated 4,200 zero-emission buses have been funded across the UK, including Scotland, of which 1,600 are on the road.

Lothian Buses, which covers my constituency, has removed 15,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from its footprint, including by introducing several electric buses. Together with the tram and the low-emission zone, that is helping to reduce pollution, particularly in Corstorphine, which has one of the worst air pollution records in the country. Would the Government consider giving all local authorities greater powers and resources to franchise bus services and simplify the application system, to reverse the ban on local services setting up their own companies? How will the Government improve the measures already mentioned and introduced, as we fight to tackle what is still 25% of the pollution that we face every day?

I thank the hon. Lady for her multiple questions. The Government have committed to look into municipal buses by the end of the Parliament. On devolution, we are happy to work with local authorities right across England and Wales on devolution settlements and what more can be done. I was delighted to visit Lothian Buses to see its fantastic red, white and gold livery right across the streets of Edinburgh and the wider region. I saw the excellent work it is doing on the ground, not just on local bus service provision but being a responsive service to the local community she represents.

Low-emission bus rollout in Cambridgeshire is going good guns but, sadly, all in Cambridge. At the same time, the 36 bus, which connects the village of Thorney with Eye and Peterborough, will be axed by Stagecoach at the end of the month. So many people rely on that service in Thorney to go to doctor’s appointments, see family and friends and go shopping. Shockingly, the combined authority Mayor has known about the axing since May and has done nothing—squat. Can the Minister think of a better way to spend the millions given to the Mayor for bus rollout and to save the 36 bus for all those people who rely on it?

My hon. Friend is a massive champion for his constituents across Peterborough. The 36 bus is clearly a vital local link. I encourage him to have those conversations with the combined authority Mayor. We have made the bus service improvement plan flexible to protect services. I will make representations to that end on his behalf. Hopefully, he and the Mayor can come to an arrangement to ensure that all the funding we have put into that combined authority area really benefits the people of Peterborough.

The Government’s commitment to deliver 4,000 zero-emission buses by the end of the Parliament lies in tatters and is in the realms of fantasy. No creative counting can hide the fact that there are still only six buses funded through the zero emission bus regional areas scheme on the roads. Will the Minister come clean with Parliament and passengers, and admit that the Government will fail in spectacular style in their promise to deliver those 4,000 zero-emission buses on the road? Will the Minister also take the opportunity to exercise a little humility and tell us how many buses have been ordered—not funding allocated, as that does not mean anything to anyone? How many will be manufactured in the UK? How many will realistically be on the road by the end of the Parliament?

If the hon. Gentleman had waited for a response to his written parliamentary question, which is coming later day, he would have noticed that 68 buses from the ZEBRA—zero emission bus regional areas—scheme are now on the road. He seems to have failed to realise that that is out of a total of 1,604 that are on the road, from out of the 4,233 that have been funded across the UK. He might want to ignore previous schemes, but it is very important that we look at schemes right across the country. On top of that, he asked how many had been ordered across the country: 2,464 have been ordered. We are making great progress towards the over 4,000 by the end of the Parliament. If he would like to provide some extra cash or outline a Labour policy that will do anything for bus users in this area, I would really love to hear it.