The Zero Emissions Buses Regional Area (ZEBRA) scheme will allow local transport authorities to bid for some of the £120m funding made available by the government to purchase zero emission buses, the Department for Transport (DfT) said in a statement.
The government says that it hopes it will also improve air quality in towns and cities across England by reducing emissions from public transport.
Funding the delivery of up to 500 zero emission buses, the scheme will see the first vehicles of the government’s wider commitment of 4,000 zero emission buses on the road within five years, according to the DfT.
The plan is financed from a wider £3 billion fund, which was announced on 15 March to improve bus services in the national bus strategy.
This strategy “will see passengers benefit from lower, simpler flat fares, more frequent services, and new requirements that will see councils set yearly targets for improving reliability of services”, according to the DfT. It also announced a consultation on the end date for sales of diesel buses.
Similar plans have been made in Australia and Canada, with the latter promising to subsidise the purchase of 5,000 zero emission buses in the next five years.
Shapps said: “We've set out our vision of how we're going to make buses better in this country, and now we’re getting on with delivering it.
“The launch of the scheme today means we’re giving businesses and local authorities the tools to help deliver the 4,000 zero emission buses we said we would introduce, which will dramatically improve air quality in towns and cities across the country, helping us achieve our net-zero ambitions.”
Silviya Barrett, head of policy, research and projects at Campaign for Better Transport, said: "Zero-emission buses are great news all round. As well as addressing climate change and air pollution, this funding will boost the bus manufacturing sector and give more passengers the best modern buses. We're glad that the government has appreciated the need to speed up the transition to zero emission buses."
Alongside the announcement, the government called for “a consortia of local transport authorities, energy companies, bus operators and manufacturers to come together to work up strong cases for funding” so that the “ fund is used quickly to help provide British bus manufacturers with an injection of orders”.
Those interested have until 21 May to express their interest – allowing local transport authorities to move quickly to secure funding.
Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), said: “The BCC very much welcomes investment in initiatives that boost public transport infrastructure and the UK’s drive towards Net Zero.
“This is a welcome injection of cash and confidence for businesses in this sector and for towns and cities across the country. Access to affordable, reliable and greener public transport will be a key to re-building local economies.”