The bus market in the UK has recorded a growth of 74.6% in the first quarter of 2024, unveiled data released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 

During the first three months of this year, 1,690 public service vehicles were added to the nation’s roads, indicating a recovery of the passenger road transport sector post-pandemic. 

The increase in demand is particularly evident in the minibus category, which saw a jump of 118.8% to 851 units.  

Single and double-decker buses also saw growth, with investments soaring by 33.6% and 70%, reaching 533 and 306 units, respectively.  

This growth aligns with the rising number of passengers and is supported by initiatives such as the Bus Fare Cap Grant. 

A key aspect of this growth is the shift towards sustainability, with 322 zero-emission models hitting the roads, a 22.9% increase from the previous year.  

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The bus sector remains at the forefront of the UK’s efforts to decarbonise road mobility due to the sector’s suitability for electrification, given their depot-based, circular routes.

Despite the positive trends, minibuses face unique challenges in transitioning to zero-emission technology.

Current licensing restrictions limit standard licence holders from operating minibuses heavier than 4.25 tonnes, which includes many zero-emission models.  

A regulatory change is expected in 2025, but there is a push to advance this to 2024 to encourage immediate investment and provide vulnerable societal groups with access to the latest green technology. 

SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said: “Britain’s road passenger transport sector is continuing its recovery amid rising ridership levels and growing operator confidence. The UK has been particularly successful at decarbonising the new bus market, however, that green growth must extend to all sectors, in particular minibuses. Operators are ready to switch to greener mobility but timely action is essential to make sure the journey to net zero includes everyone.” 

Last week, SMMT revealed that new automobile registrations in the UK increased by 1% in April 2024.