Bus and coach market still struggling

New bus and coach market still significantly down on pre-pandemic average

The UK new bus and coach market recorded sluggish growth in the second quarter of 2022 and while sales are up on 2021, they are still significantly down on the five-year pre-pandemic average as rider levels struggle to recover.

There were 1,066 new units registered in the second quarter of 2022, a rise of 0.6%, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Bus and coach sales so far this year stand at 2,040 units, up 18% on last year thanks to the recovery in Q1, but still down 46% on the pre-pandemic five-year average.

The slight growth in Q2 saw single-deck buses up 65%, while minibuses weighing up to six tonnes and with up to 17 seats – the largest segment by volume – fell by 10%. Registrations of double-deck buses, meanwhile, declined by 52%.

In the year to date, the overall sector is up 18%, with minibus registrations increasing by 9% and single-deck buses by 85%, while double-deck buses fell by 25%.

While ridership levels have gradually been improving since the end of the lockdowns, they remain below pre-pandemic levels, reducing operator confidence to invest in their fleets. Although about £270 million of Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) funding has been announced since October 2021, this has yet to be reflected in registrations.

By nation, Wales as experienced the biggest leap in registrations this year, up 117% on 2021, although they account for a small percentage of the overall UK market. That is dominated by England, where sales are up 18% year-on-year. Northern Ireland has also seen registrations grow this year, up 22%. The only nation to register a fall this year is Scotland, where registrations are down 22%.

“The bus and coach sector is key to ensuring everyone in British society can be on the move, with a critical role to play in the UK’s Net Zero targets,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive.

“Growth is therefore essential to get the cleanest and greenest buses and coaches on Britain’s roads. However, ridership levels are struggling to recover to pre-pandemic levels, to the detriment of operators’ confidence in renewing their fleets.”

Dan Parton
Dan Parton
Dan Parton is a former editor of Truck & Driver, the UK’s biggest selling truck magazine. He is now writes for The Van Expert and The Truck Expert.

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