Stagecoach is urging leaders to put in place firm plans to motivate and incentivise people to change the way they travel in order to meet the country’s net zero ambitions.
The UK’s biggest bus and coach operator is warning that net zero ambitions cannot be achieved by technology alone, such as by replacing petrol and diesel-powered cars with electric vehicles. The fastest way to make progress is by switching where possible from making journeys by car and instead travelling by public transport, cycling or walking.
The call comes as the COP26 climate change summit marks transport day today (10 November). Stagecoach is calling on leaders to be honest with citizens that the current status quo cannot continue in simply replacing traffic jams of diesel and petrol cars with traffic jams of electric cars. Figures published by Inrix, Inc1 show that congestion during 2019 cost the UK economy £6.9billion, an average of £894 per driver, with Brits wasting an average of 115 hours in congestion. By contrast, independent research carried out prior to Covid-19 demonstrates that Stagecoach helped to save 190,000 tonnes of Co2 by people taking buses rather than using cars, equating to around £343million a year in potential congestion related savings2.
The Committee on Climate Change has made clear that changing technology will only deliver 38% of the required reductions in emissions, which means 62% of emissions reductions will have to come from changes in how people live and travel, including using more sustainable public transport.
Martin Griffiths, Chief Executive of Stagecoach, said: “As the focus at COP26 today turns to transport, it’s crucial that we focus on the most important thing – incentivising people out of cars and onto public transport. This is the only way that we can quickly meet the country’s net zero ambitions.
“We need leaders to be honest with citizens that we cannot go on as we are now by simply replacing jams of diesel and petrol cars with jams of electric cars. Congestion is costing our economy billions of pounds each year, and that cannot be reduced by technology alone.
“As we focus on the action plans coming out of COP26, buses will continue to play a key role in delivering on the country’s net zero ambitions and creating healthier, more connected communities. Stagecoach is investing hundreds of millions of pounds in new clean electric buses and making major changes to reduce carbon, but we need the government’s help in encouraging people to switch from cars to more sustainable public transport, cycling and walking.”
Stagecoach – which recently published its new sustainability strategy, Driving Net Zero: Better Places to Live and Work – is aiming to decarbonise its business by around 70% by 2035 as well as targeting a zero emissions bus fleet across the UK by that date. The roadmap to becoming a fully carbon neutral business will see investment in new zero-emissions fleets, such as electric buses, and other green technologies over the next 15 years.
Investment being made by Stagecoach as part of its new sustainability strategy, including in cleaner technologies, is planned to cut the company’s annual emissions by 351,945 tCO2e by 2035, equivalent to the total annual pre-pandemic emissions produced by around 66,000 UK households3.
As part of the transition to net zero, Stagecoach is also taking a number of other individual steps to make its existing buses even cleaner. Around 1,000 vehicles have now been retrofitted with new engines or new exhaust systems which mean they have 95% fewer emissions than standard buses.
Stagecoach will this year be introducing 46 new fully electric buses in key transport networks across Scotland in Aberdeen, Kilmarnock and Perth as part of the Government’s Ultra Low Emission Bus Scheme. During the summer, it launched six new electric buses serving rural communities across the west of Scotland in partnership with SP Energy Networks. Stagecoach has also made one of the biggest single investments in electric vehicles in Europe with its double-decker fleet in Manchester.
The company has also recently proposed a package of policy interventions to kick-start the country’s town and city centres, boost health and well-being, and help deliver stretching government targets to reach net zero by 2050. The proposals include mobility tax incentives, discounted fares and a national bus marketing campaign to match the recent advertising push to attract consumers back to trains. It has also called for wider reform of motoring taxation to encourage a shift to more sustainable bus travel, with the decarbonisation of road transport expected to have a significant impact on future tax receipts from fuel duty. Moving to a pay-per-mile form of taxation for private cars, with appropriate mitigations, would increase awareness of the true cost of motoring and support a shift to available public transport or active travel alternatives.