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Rebuilding bus market to meet the net zero carbon challenge

The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) has released a White Paper that features 14 recommendations for encouraging the UK government to realign its policies for exiting the COVID-19 lockdown, to work alongside the goal of significantly reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improving the nation’s air quality.

The paper, 
Rebuilding the bus market to meet the decarbonising challenge in a post-COVID world, states that COVID-19 changes nothing if, without intervention, the way we travel reverts back to congestion and pollution.

The UK government’s policy document, Decarbonising transport: Setting the challenge
, was launched on 4 March 2020. The document was the Department for Transport’s first step to developing the policy proposals and a coordinated plan for decarbonising transport. The legal requirement to reach net zero by 2050 has not changed. However, in the few weeks since the document was issued the landscape of the transport sector has changed beyond recognition. 

Delivering the emissions reduction needed from transport is a significant and sustained challenge and net zero demands a fresh approach, says CILT, one it believes must build on the impacts that COVID-19 has had on changing travel behaviours.

The Institute believes that post-COVID recovery provides ‘a unique and unrivalled opportunity to lock in the unintended consequence of the lockdown that virtually eliminated traffic congestion, resulting in better air quality, improved urban environments and vastly reduced carbon emissions’. 

The paper encourages the government to continue to show the same commitment that it did before the pandemic and ensure funding is retained, but used rather differently than originally intended in order to mount a major pro-bus and active travel campaign. 

It says that the government also needs to lead an urgent national debate between stakeholders to identify how to change the planning, commercial and operational landscapes whilst reducing unnecessary regulation, in the short and longer term, all to make the bus a more attractive alternative to car use.

Nick Richardson, Chair, Bus & Coach Policy Group, CILT, says: ‘As it stands, there is a potential for managing the pandemic and improving air quality to be seen as mutually exclusive policy objectives. However, we believe that this is the ideal starting point for redoubling progress on the route to net zero. Key to preparing for the post-lockdown phase is to recognise that rebooting the bus and coach sector and enabling its contribution to net zero needs commitment from central government, local authorities and operators. If we can use the reduction in travel that has been experienced during this pandemic, and enhance the bus and public transport offer, we will deliver a cleaner environment in addition to developing wider social benefits such as reducing loneliness, isolation and achieve improved mental health outcomes plus many economic objectives.’

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