Scotland to miss target to lose most diesel buses

Transport Scotland has ‘very ambitious’ target to replace diesel buses with greener alternatives

The Scottish Government will miss a key target to remove the majority of diesel buses from public transport by next year, according to a report.

Transform Scotland found that only around 16% of the bus fleet will be electric or hydrogen by the end of 2023.

Its analysis of 10 transport goals said that while some of the commitments were on track, progress in other areas had slowed or been delayed.

Transport Scotland said it was “right to aim high”.

The SNP’s 2021 Holyrood election manifesto promised to “remove the majority of fossil fuel buses from transport in Scotland by 2023”. The ambition was reiterated in the Ministerial Program for Government.

The target would require more than 1,850 of the country’s 3,700 licensed buses to convert to zero-emission vehicles, according to Transform Scotland, a national alliance for sustainable transport.

The agency’s report, Stuck in Traffic, was published ahead of Tuesday’s 2022-23 Government Agenda.

It found there were around 280 zero-emission buses operating in Scotland, with funding for a further 325.

On this trajectory, more than 600 buses, 16% of the fleet, will be carbon-free by the end of 2023.

‘Huge disappointment’

The Transform Scotland report analyzed 10 key transport commitments from last year’s Program for Government.

The study said efforts to de-clutter the bus fleet, improve bus priority on Glasgow’s motorways and introduce fair rail fares had made “no progress” or were unlikely to achieve their aims.

It identified “slow progress” on targets related to free bus travel for under-22s, reducing car traffic, low-emission ferries, decarbonising rail services by 2035 and infrastructure investment bus priority.

However, it said “good progress” had been made on targets to increase the active travel budget and phase out ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles.

Bus art

Scotland is not on track to meet its green bus target

Report author Marie Ferdelman said missing the decarbonisation target for buses would be “hugely disappointing”, as she called on the government to step up its efforts.

“The Scottish Government will have to be judged on whether it can deliver on what it has promised and in this case it will not be able to.”

Ms Ferdelman added: “There has been some progress on other targets, but we have seen no or only slow progress on the majority of sustainable transport commitments from the last three Programs for Government.

“The climate emergency and cost of living crisis require urgent action and further delay and reluctance to deliver on sustainable transport commitments is not an option. Scotland needs an affordable, low-carbon transport system that does not force people to depend on expensive and polluting cars.”

Transport Scotland said its drive to meet the bus target had been hampered by the Covid-19 crisis.

A spokesman said: “We’ve always been clear that this was an ambitious target that we couldn’t achieve on our own – which is why the work of our decarbonised bus task force has been critical to our success so far.

“Furthermore, no one could have predicted the profound impact of the global pandemic.

“We were right to aim high and ensure progress across the industry – driving ambition into delivery, with the proportion of zero-emission buses in Scotland now around three times higher than in England.

“Combined with providing free bus travel to all under-22s across Scotland – we’re putting the bus at the forefront of our green recovery from the pandemic.”

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