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Rural areas get first dibs on £129m fund for new zero-emission buses

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The government has announced up to £129m to help local transport authorities introduce hundreds more zero-emission buses.

It has prioritised the first £25m for rural communities where building the infrastructure needed for the buses is more expensive.

The Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) 2 scheme is now open for bids from all local authorities in England outside London, with applications to be prioritised from those that did not receive funding in the previous funding rounds.

The first round of ZEBRA funding saw 1,300 zero emission buses introduced onto local bus routes as part of an initial target of 4,000. Eventually, the government wants the UK’s entire fleet to be fully decarbonised.

Transport secretary Mark Harper also announced the launch of a new research hub, backed by £10m in taxpayer funding, to develop ideas to ensure future transport infrastructure is low-carbon and resilient.

“Today’s funding for more zero-emission buses will help decarbonise public transport and grow the economy by keeping our communities connected,” he said.

“We have already reached our initial target of funding at least 4,000 zero-emission buses, and this additional funding will improve journeys for even more passengers, reaching those in the most remote areas.

“The UK is also cementing its position as a world leader in net zero tech with this new investment into climate resilience. Our net zero transport hub will be a centre of academic excellence, helping us keep our transport network resilient into the future.”

The UK is currently struggling to keep pace with building the infrastructure to support mass electric car adoption.

There are currently fewer than 43,000 public charge points in the whole of the UK. A study from 2021 found that the installation of chargers needs to increase by five times the current rate if the plan to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 is to be achieved.

Bus minister Richard Holden said: “This brings our total investment in new zero-emission buses to almost £500m, helping to kick-start a new generation of bus manufacturing in the UK and create good, high-quality jobs from Scarborough to Falkirk.

“We’re leading the way by ensuring that Britain can take advantage of high-skill manufacturing while delivering cleaner public transport for passengers across the country.”

In January, FirstGroup announced it was running the UK’s first zero-emission self-driving bus service on public roads to serve Milton Park in Oxfordshire.

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