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‘Useless’ Bus Retrofit Scheme Used in Greater Manchester ‘Wasted Millions’, Labour Say

Almost £100 million has been “wasted” on retrofitting buses in England with “useless” technology used in Greater Manchester, according to Labour.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh accused the Government of a “shocking display of incompetence and waste” over attempts to reduce harmful emissions from diesel buses on a national scale, and also pressed ministers to work with affected areas, including Sheffield and Greater Manchester, to resolve the issue.

In response, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said “some technical issues” are being worked through at the moment, although he was not in a position to announce any decisions. The Government, in response to a written parliamentary question earlier this year, said it had advised local authorities it had paused new funding for selective catalytic reduction (SCR) bus retrofit technology after research by the Scottish Government and internal monitoring “suggested it might not always be as effective as expected”.

In response to further written questions from Labour, the Department for Transport said it had provided £64 million in funding for retrofitted buses in the 2017-2019 clean bus technology fund and £31 million was provided for “specific retrofit initiatives” under the NO2 programme. Speaking at transport questions, Ms Haigh asked: “Why has the Government wasted £95 million on technology that doesn’t work on the retrofitting of buses?”

Mr Harper replied: “(Ms Haigh) will know we’ve done a great deal of work to make sure that buses are compliant with their emissions rules. There are some technical issues that are being worked through at the moment. I’m not in a position to announce any decisions yet. We’ll announce to the House, in due course, when that work is completed.”

Ms Haigh added: “Bus services are disappearing at record levels and yet his department has wasted almost £100 million on retrofitting technology that doesn’t work because it was never tested outside a lab. Even for this Government, this is a shocking display of incompetence and waste.

“So will he now work with those cities left with useless technology and ensure that the next round of zero-emission funding is targeted there so they can get on with the job of cleaning up our air and cleaning up his mess?”

Mr Harper replied: “Once again (Ms Haigh) simply doesn’t recognise the significant investment that we’ve made in bus services.”

Ms Haigh could be heard shouting: “It doesn’t work.”

Mr Harper added: “She talked about investment in bus services, we’ve announced a significant amount of extra money in protecting bus routes, we rolled out the funding to deliver the £2 bus fare cap and we’ve also announced the money to deliver zero-emission buses and we’ve delivered the 4,000 that we said we were going to. So a huge amount of investment in bus services because we know it’s the most popular form of public transport and we will always back it.”

Source: Manchester Evening News