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The green shift: zero emission buses could lure millions onto public transport

Go-Ahead

4 min read Partner content
  • A majority (55%) of people are likely to travel by bus more often if buses are powered by zero-emission electric or hydrogen batteries
  • Only a quarter of the public think bus travel in general is ‘green’. But eight out of ten view zero emission buses as ‘green’.
  • Younger people are particularly likely to be swayed in their travel habits by a switch towards low emission technology
  • Independent research carried out for Go-Ahead Group’s new Zero Emission Centre of Excellence

Buses powered by electric or hydrogen batteries could lure millions of additional passengers onto public transport according to new research into public attitudes towards travel.

Research by ComRes for Go-Ahead’s Zero Emission Centre of Excellence has found that only 26% of the public view bus travel as a ‘green’ form of transport – on a par with rail travel, but well below the number who view cycling or walking as ‘green’.

However, if they are specifically told that a bus they are catching is powered by an electric or hydrogen fuel cell battery, the proportion who view it as a green form of transport rockets to 81%.

Contrary to received wisdom in the public transport industry that ‘green’ buses don’t sell any more tickets, 55% of respondents said that they would be more likely to travel by bus if they knew that a zero emission bus was available. This raises the prospect of a significant increase in bus travel as the UK’s 30,000-strong bus fleet transitions from diesel fuel to electric or hydrogen power.

The polling was carried out on behalf of The Go-Ahead Group’s Zero Emission Centre of Excellence, which officially opens today. The centre, based in London, brings together expertise from Go-Ahead’s bus companies across the UK, Ireland, Sweden and Singapore and will develop best practice in buying, running and maintaining zero emission buses.

Louis Rambaud, Go-Ahead’s Director of Strategy and Transformation, said:

“It is surprising that so few people view buses as green, given that they account for just 2% of greenhouse gas emissions from transport, compared to 52% from cars. Public transport is a fundamentally sustainable way to get around.

“Nevertheless, these findings show that zero emission buses are a game changer. If we can demonstrate to the public that buses are green, we can persuade millions of people to leave their cars at home in favour of public transport.

"And this reinforces the value of public sector support for investment in zero emission buses - including the Government's ZEBRA funding scheme for electric and hydrogen buses.”

The Go-Ahead Group operates more than 6,000 buses across the UK, and has committed to an entirely zero emission UK fleet by 2035. The company is the largest operator of buses in London and has eight regional bus companies including networks in Devon and Cornwall, Dorset and Hampshire, Brighton, Oxford, East Anglia, East Yorkshire, Manchester and the north-east.

Richard Harrington, Engineering Director at Go-Ahead London and head of the group’s Zero Emission Centre of Excellence, said:

“Go-Ahead is already the UK’s largest operator of electric buses and we’re determined to deliver a zero emission fleet by 2035.

“Our new centre of excellence will develop solutions to the challenges such as equipping depots, buying buses, managing battery life and training drivers. We will also be looking at ways to open up our depots to third parties who may wish to use our charging points for their own vehicles.”

Polling findings in detail include:

  • 26% of the public think bus travel is a ‘green’ form of transport. This compares to 3% for flying, 4% for taxis, 9% for car travel, 26% for rail travel, 73% cycling and 83% for walking.
  • If a bus was ‘zero emission’ and powered through an electric battery or hydrogen fuel cell, would you consider it to be green? 81% agree, 6% disagree.
  • 55% of respondents would be more likely to travel by bus if they knew it was a zero emission bus. For those aged under 35, the figure was 66%
  • Asked what would encourage them to travel by bus more often, 56% chose cheaper tickets, 41% increased frequency, 34% cleaner buses, 34% speedier journeys, 30% zero emission buses, 23% clearer bus information and 20% improved security

The poll of 1,000 respondents was carried out by ComRes over the weekend of December 3rd to 4th.

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