New bus sales hit 25-year low

The number of buses and coaches built in 2021 fell 16.8 per cent, the lowest level registered since 1996.

The number of buses and coaches built in 2021 fell 16.8 per cent, the lowest level registered since 1996.

Total registrations amounted to 3,467 vehicles, with only 883 in the fourth quarter, as the pandemic continued to affect passenger levels all over the country, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the industry trade body.

The society said Covid restrictions and a 17 per cent decline in passenger numbers were the main cause of the fall, with registrations of all types of new buses and coaches declining in 2021.

The trade body has called on the government to take significant action to address the decline, including releasing funds from the Bus Back Better strategy, which has promised £3 billion of funding to bring bus travel across England more in line with London standards.

Mike Hawes, head of the society, said: “We need the Bus Back Better programme to release funds to support the sector and for that investment to be made urgently. If we are to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions while keeping society and the economy moving, operator confidence and fleet renewal are essential.”

In the final three months of last year the number of new buses and coaches being registered was down 31 per cent. Registrations for single-deck buses fell by 0.5 per cent to 751 units and double-decker registrations experienced the worst decline out of all types – down 35 per cent.

Minibus registrations also had a significant drop of 17 per cent, although they continue to dominate the market, accounting for more than two thirds of all new buses and coaches joining UK roads in 2021.

The bus and coach sector has been on a downward trend since 2017, when the number of new vehicles registered was 7,666 — more than double the amount recorded this year. The trade body has asked the government to find ways to ensure the conditions are right for operators to invest in new vehicles, and for the safeguarding of the sector and the jobs it sustains.

The motor industry has a £60 billion annual turnover and £12 billion value added to the UK economy. With more than 155,000 people employed directly in manufacturing and some 800,000 across the wider industry. It accounts for 11 per cent of total UK exports with more than 150 countries importing UK produced vehicles, generating more than £73 billion of trade.