Bus and coach Q2 market best since 2019

Sustainable Bus Transport

Growth in bus and coach market

Britain’s bus and coach market grew by 6% in the second quarter of 2023 with 1,129 vehicles registered, according to the latest figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Government support such as the Bus Fare Cap Grant helped the sector to stabilise amid improved passenger numbers, which had declined sharply during the pandemic. The latest new vehicle registrations represent the best Q2 performance since 2019 but it remains some 20% lower than the numbers registered four years ago.

Growth was driven primarily by deliveries of double and single deckers, up by 211% to 193 units and 32% to 478 units respectively.

According to the SMMT, short-term measures such as extending the Bus Fare Cap Grant will help to maintain this growth trend, which will be critical for operators to ensure services are accessible and affordable. A long-term strategy, however, is needed to boost operator confidence to invest in fleet renewal, particularly with electric and hydrogen models.

The Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) fund has provided grants to 17 regions for the greenest vehicles, but a further 48 regions are yet to access the fund. The SMMT believes that urgent action is necessary to make the application process smoother and more timely so that all stakeholders are able to deliver their green ambitions.

Commenting on the release of the latest bus and coach statistics, Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “A rise in bus and coach fleet renewal driven by demand for single and double deckers indicates that the sector is stabilising but operators continue to face highly challenging conditions, hampering sustained growth. The industry needs a long-term government strategy to deliver growth and decarbonisation, boosting uptake and underpinned by a more streamlined ZEBRA funding process. With the right support, this critical sector can continue to deliver affordable, accessible and sustainable mass mobility across the UK, while driving improvements to air quality in our towns and cities.”

John Dwight, Sales Director of Imperial Engineering, which supports bus and coach operators across the UK with OE parts, commented:

“The uplift in registrations for buses and coaches is to be welcomed and demonstrates the resilience of the sector in tackling the challenges of transitioning to zero emission transport whilst in the midst of a cost of living crisis.  It’s very encouraging to see operators making investments in new vehicles, which is great for passengers too. As a major distributor of OE and remanufactured parts for bus and coach operators of all sizes, Imperial Engineering continues to support customers in a tough economic climate.”