The Prime Minister must put forthcoming national bus strategy at the heart of climate policy

Bus near parliament
Published on: 11th February 2020

The announcement today of a £5 billion fund for local transport is very welcome first step.  Investment in our bus networks will go a long way to levelling up transport services in every region of the UK.  Bus investment supports jobs and UK manufacturing and delivers genuinely inclusive and sustainable growth. 400,000 bus commuters are in better more productive jobs as a direct result of their bus service.  80% of urban buses sold in the UK are built in the UK compared with just 13% of new cars.  A 10% improvement in bus service connectivity is associated with a 3.6% reduction in social deprivation.

For this investment to deliver, however, Greener Journeys urges the PM to go further.  Transport is the largest emitting sector of the UK economy accounting for 27% of greenhouse gas emissions.  It is the only sector to have increased emissions over the last carbon budget, largely as the result of rising demand for car and van travel.

Bus must be central to the decarbonisation of our transport system.  A double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road.

In launching the COP26 UN climate summit last week the Prime Minister made it clear that he personally intends to keep the UK in the vanguard on the climate change agenda.  The last decade has been the hottest on record. Global greenhouse gas emissions must fall by around 8% every year from now to 2030, but there is no sign even of emissions peaking in the next few years.  COP26, to be held later this year in Glasgow, will be a pivotal event which will establish whether the international community is able to agree on a pathway to avoid catastrophic climate change.

We need a major switch from private to public transport.  This is not only vital to reduce carbon emissions.  Air pollution largely from road traffic is linked to an estimated 40,000 early deaths a year.   A modern diesel bus produces fewer toxic emissions than a modern diesel car despite carrying 20 times more passengers.

There are signs that measures to reduce  could become more acceptable to the general public.  Some local authorities are including restrictions on diesel car use in their plans to tackle air pollution.  A recent survey for the Department for Transport revealed that three quarters of the population believe now we should reduce use of motor vehicles for the sake of our health.

Claire Haigh, Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, commented:

“Today’s announcement demonstrates that we have a Prime Minister genuinely committed to buses.  Bus investment supports jobs and UK manufacturing and delivers genuinely inclusive and sustainable growth.  A 10% improvement in bus service connectivity is associated with a 3.6% reduction in social deprivation. But if we need to go much further if we are to tackle the climate crisis.  A double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road.

“Instead of building new roads we must better use of our existing road network through demand management measures such as the work place parking levy and road pricing schemes. Fuel duty must be increased in next month’s Budget.  The freeze since 2011 has caused there to be 4% more increase in traffic, 4.5 million tonnes of CO2, 200 million fewer bus journeys and 60 million fewer rail journeys.   The money raised from increasing fuel duty should be ring fenced to accelerate the switch to electric vehicles and to encourage greater use of public transport.”

About Greener Journeys

Greener Journeys is dedicated to encouraging more sustainable travel.  We undertake research into the social, economic and environmental benefits of public transport, and campaign for those benefits to be realized. Our work allows everyone from policy makers to industry executives to individual passengers to make positive and evidence-based decisions about how people travel www.greenerjourneys.com