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This month we saw the UK government set the world’s most ambitious target to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels. This will take the UK more than three-quarters of the way to reaching Net Zero by 2050.

Also this month, a nationally-representative survey, conducted by school transport technology specialist, Kura, found 23.2% of the 250 school leaders questioned, believe Covid-19 infection fears are set to drive increased car use among parents on the school run. This figure rises to 35% in independent schools.

Below we take a look in more detail at what’s been happening in our core policy areas of transport and diversity.

Active Travel
Public Transport
Buses
Rail
E-Mobility
Electric Vehicles
E-Scooters
E-Bikes
Diversity

Active travel

On 7th April we celebrated World Health Day, with the focus this year being to build a fairer, healthier planet.  As part of this we were encouraged to look at how we can increase our active travel in order to look after our own health, our families and our friends. Other news in active travel this month includes:

  • The Welsh Government has launched its new transport strategy, in which it pledges to increase the proportion of trips by walking, cycling and public transport from 32% to 45% by 2040.
  • A report from Halfords based on OnePoll research of 2,000 people alongside sales data and industry insight from its team of experts, found that 33% of adults say they plan on using their bike even more once lockdown ends. Sales of adult bikes are up 193% compared to last year, and demand for Halfords’ own Cycle2Work programme has increased by 89% over the past year.
  • These figures are echoed by a similar report from online fitness store, Wiggle, has reported a 138% increase in bike sales year on year.
  • The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps has announced an £18m investment in cycle training across the country to ensure children and their families have the confidence to choose active travel.

Public transport

  • A recent survey by Campaign for Better Transport asking peoplewhat modes of transport they used before the pandemic, and which they intend to use once all restrictions are lifted, shows the UK adult population largely expect to travel as they did before, with private cars remaining dominant over public transport. Less crowded services, cheaper tickets and better routes came top of people’s wish list to encourage increased use of public transport post-pandemic.
  • FirstGroup has become the first bus and rail operator in the UK to formally commit to setting an ambitious science-based target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.

Elsewhere in public transport this month:

Buses

  • The government has launched a £120m scheme to support the roll-out of zero-emission buses across the UK. The funding is being made available through the Zero Emissions Buses Regional Area (ZEBRA) scheme and is forecast to deliver up to 500 green buses.
  • Stagecoach has ordered 46 zero emissions buses from a joint electric vehicle partnership by bus producers Alexander Dennis Ltd and BYD UK. Part-funded by the Scottish Government, the buses will be deployed as part of the operator’s fleets in Aberdeen, Perth and Kilmarnock.
  • Northern Ireland bus manufacturer, Wrightbus has been awarded £11.2m by the government to develop cheaper hydrogen fuel cell technology and a hydrogen centre of excellence. The grant is one of three for road transport decarbonisation projects announced by Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
  • Buckinghamshire bus company, Carousel, has made a £200,000 investment in retrofitting exhausts on its vehicles with after-treatment technology to help improve air quality.
  • Latest figures from the UK’s largest coach operator, National Express, show signs of the public’s increased confidence in domestic travel. Operations were restarted with a limited timetable and reduced passenger numbers on 29thMarch. Around 70% of seats were sold during the first week, increasing to 80% over the Easter weekend.
  • A new project is planning to bring 20 hydrogen-powered double-deck buses to the streets of Liverpool City Region. The zero-emissions vehicles will be funded by the Combined Authority.
  • The Scottish and UK governments have announced new funding schemes to support the rollout of zero-emissions buses in Scotland and England. The UK scheme, covering England, will fund up to 500 ZE buses, while the Scottish scheme will help replace 215 diesel buses.
  • The above Scottish Government funding has allowed bus operator, McGill’s to make a £15m investment in 33 new electric buses.
  • Leading bus operators from across the Glasgow city region have joined forces to create Glas-Go, a new bus alliance formed to improve sustainable travel in and out of the city, while increasing bus patronage by 25% over the next five years.
  • Stoke-on-Trent bus company, D&G is the first in the UK to introduce a covid-safe disinfectant fogging system to make public transport safer for passengers. The company has been trialling the automatic system which sanitises a whole bus in just minutes and kills up to 99.9 per cent of viruses and bacteria.

Rail

  • As part of the rail industry’s safer travel pledge to ensure people can travel with confidence, rail companies throughout England have increased services to almost 18,000 each weekday, an increase of over 1,000 since February, with an even more significant service uplift planned for May.
  • South-Western Railway is currently testing technology that will enable passengers to use its smartphone app to access a live data feed on levels of crowding on trains. The app will be made live on specific routes in the coming months.
  • Ministers and rail chiefs are finalising a new system of flexible season tickets designed to entice commuters back to city centres as the shift to hybrid working takes off. The tickets will allow passengers up to five return journeys per month at a discount of 15 percent on peak fares.
  • The rail industries ‘Sustainable Stations Guide’ has been launched, which sees the rail companies responsible for managing the UK’s 2,563 railway stations pledging to make stations more sustainable. Action to reduce waste, support local wildlife and cut the carbon footprint, including initiatives such as more solar panels, wildflower zones and electric vehicle charge points.
  • The Railway Industry Association has launched it’s ‘Why Rail Electrification?’ report, which urges the government to begin a programme of rail electrification urgently, in order to meet Net Zero legal requirements. The report was published alongside an open letter to Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, signed by more than 15 industry, business and campaign groups.
  • Leighton Buzzard train station has become the UK’s first transport hub to utilise kinetic energy from commuters’ footsteps. The system launched by energy floor tile business, Pavegen and Central Bedfordshire Council has been funded by the Department for Transport through the £22.9m ADEPT SMART places Live Labs Programme.

E-mobility

  • Uber has launched a new electric vehicle service in London, offering passengers using the Uber app within London’s Zone 1 the ability to select a fully electric vehicle. The ridesharing company hopes this move will help reduce emissions and drive a green recovery to the Covid-19 crisis.
  • BP Pulse is to expand its ultra-fast EV charging infrastructure significantly across the UK with a series of charging hubs developed in partnership with The EV Network. The company is aiming to double the size of its network to 16,000 charge points by 2030, with a particular emphasis on ultra-fast chargers.

Electric Vehicles

  • According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles achieved combined 14% market share in March, their highest ever volume in the UK.
  • The Faraday Institution, the UK’s flagship battery research programme, has announced a further £22.6m fund to research the safety and development of electric vehicle batteries. The fund will be used on various research projects including:
    • Extending battery life
    • Battery modelling
    • Recycling and reuse
    • Solid-state batteries
    • Battery safety
  • According to a poll by motoring organisation, The AA, four out of five motorists think electric vehicles are still too expensive for them to purchase. The study also highlighted frequent concerns raised about EV ownership, including limited driving ranges, extended charging times and a sub-standard infrastructure.
  • In contrast, figures revealed in April show approximately 31,800 battery electric cars were sold in the first 3 months of 2021, meaning the UK has now overtaken France to become Europe’s second-largest electric car market.

E-scooters

  • According to latest analysis from micromobility and urban design company, Zag, the UK shared e-scooter trial fleet has reached the two-million journeys milestone since July 2020.
  • Parking bays for rental scooters are to be trialled at various London underground stations and shopping hubs to help alleviate issues surrounding parking of hired e-scooters. Participating boroughs include Kensington and Chelsea, Richmond, Barnet, Westminster, Hounslow and Lambeth.
  • This month, the following UK towns and cities have either launched, announced or are consulting on e-scooter trials:
    • Copeland
    • Coventry (University of Warwick)

E-bikes

  • The Welsh government has announced it will fund pilot schemes to accelerate the uptake of electric bikes and electric cargo bikes in Wales. The move is part of efforts to deliver a culture change in how people get around in Wales, creating a greener and more convenient transport network.
  • Leicester has launched a new electric bike share scheme, open to all residents of the city. The scheme, known as Santander Cycles Leicester, will eventually see 500 electric bikes available to hire from 50 locations across the city centre.
  • Electric bikes are now available to hire across York. Tier, who is responsible for the city’s electric scooter trial, has now added 50 electric bikes to its fleet, to be used on roads and cycle paths.

Diversity

  • Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, has announced the full list of members for the newly formed Gender Equality Advisory Council (GEAC), which will ensure women are at the heart of the build back better agenda as we recover from Covid-19. Members include world-leading experts including scientists, vaccinologists and business leaders.
  • New research from engineering, design and consultancy company, Ramboll, has found that safety concerns about walking, cycling and using public transport have a big influence on how women move around cities. In the survey, 64% of women, compared to 57% of men, said the distance to a station or stop from their home influences their choice of public transportation. 33% of women are influenced by whether they feel secure at the station and 35% on-board transport, compared to 28% and 29% of men respectively.

We hope you found this roundup interesting and informative. Please contact us if you would like further information, or to find out more about the public affairs and diversity services we offer. Or sign up to our blog for up to date news, opinions and advice.