Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by National Express Limited


  1.1  This submission is made by National Express Limited who runs a national network of scheduled and contracted coach services.

  1.2  The National Express network carries around 17 million passengers per annum. It is a totally commercial operation and receives no direct subsidy to provide the services. Since 2003 we have also been the major provider of network wide half fare travel for the over 60s and disabled which is funded by Department for Transport. Services operate seven days per week and many routes operate through the full 24 hours.


  2.1  Coaches are an extremely efficient form of transport. The emissions of greenhouse gases on a per passenger kilometre basis for our coach services is 32 gCO2e/[58] The emissions from typical medium sized petrol car are 220 gCO2e/ km and the average for new cars 171 gCO2/km.

  2.2  Through our customers using our services instead of the car for their journeys there is a net saving of greenhouse gas emissions. If we stopped running services and assumed 80% of customers travelled by car instead this would result in an extra 294,000 tonnes of CO2e per year being emitted from transport.

  2.3  In 2004 our coaches operations accounted for less than 0.09% of CO2 emissions from transport in the UK.


  3.1  Our coach fleet is also extremely environmental friendly in terms of local air pollutants such as Nitrogen Oxides, Particulates and Hydrocarbons. The reason for this is that we have continued to invest in new modern vehicles. The average age of our fleet being 4.3 years for our franchise network operation and 5.5 years for our owned fleet.

  3.2  New coaches with diesel engines that comply with the latest Euro IV engine specification are less fuel efficient than the older vehicles they replace. The reason for this is that the new cleaner engines are less efficient than the old engines. In addition to this new coaches have climate control (which customers now expect as standard) and are heavier due to their more accessible design. Consequently our baseline emissions of greenhouse gases, and fuel costs, are set to increase. This trade-off between mitigation for local air quality and mitigation for climate change is well know and subject to a recent report by the Air Quality Expert Group (


  4.1  The average speed of coaches has a major impact on both fuel efficiency and exhaust emissions. In urban areas where average speeds are slow both the fuel efficiency (greenhouse gas emissions) and exhaust pollutants are worse than at higher speeds. Increasing the average speed from say 15 to 25 kilometres per hour reduces the emission of CO2 by approximately 25%.


  5.1  Currently there are very limited cost effective options for improving fuel efficiency. Fuel is a major cost in our operation so we have a big incentive to improve efficiency.

  5.2  New technology such as hybrid engines, which when available, have great potential to bring about big improvements in both greenhouse gas emissions and exhaust pollutants.

  5.3  The Government has key role to play in terms of promoting the development of the new technology identified in Powering Future Vehicles. It will also be critical that they provide incentives to operators to enable them to early adopt this technology. It is currently not clear that there will be funding routes available for coach operators.

  5.4  Improving the average speed of coaches running on the road network, especially in and out of congested urban centres, can result in large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions than new technology. The DfT could do more to promote greater bus and coach prioritisation measures in cities. Consideration should also be given to prioritisation measures on busy motorway or A road intersections with priority lanes and perhaps even hard shoulder running on key motorway sections.


  6.1  Promoting the use of public transport instead of car or plane for journeys is the simplest way of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector. Despite being potentially the most efficient form of mass transportation coaches are often neglected by policy makers. Within the existing service levels many more passengers could be carried without adding additional journeys making coach even more efficient.

  6.2  Our market research has shown that over 50% of the adult population are potential customers. Maintaining low ticket prices and minimising journey time are critical factors in growing the number of customers using our services.

  6.3  The real cost of running public transport has increased over the years whereas the real cost of the car remains below 1980 levels. If this trend continues it will make it increasingly harder to attract new customers onto our services. Congestion charging will be a helpful tool in reducing both congestion and making the use of the car more expensive.

  6.4  Decreasing journey time of coaches on the road network would be a key measure to help us grow patronage and promote modal shift from road vehicles or low cost airlines. Government can influence this by creating more prioritisation for bus and coaches.

  6.5  Government policy relating to local air quality or accessibility has resulted in increased running costs. Policy measures relating to climate have the potential to reverse to this trend and benefit the most efficient modes of transport which would include coaches.

  6.6  Emissions trading is one of the key policy measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Currently transport is not included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) although it looks like aviation may be included in future phases. Serious consideration should be given to how transport fits into this system. For transport the most sensible metric to use is emissions of greenhouse gases on a passenger kilometre basis. Such a system should reward the most efficient forms of transport such as coaches and thus promote modal shift. At current prices the value of the net savings in CO2 identified in 2.2 is approximately £5.25 million at current EU ETS prices - this would fund an extra new 30 coaches every year.

  6.7  The current EU ETS is a cap and trade system based on a historic baseline figure. It is difficult to see how this EU ETS can be applied to the metric of greenhouse gas emissions on a per passenger kilometre basis.

  6.8  There is the very real danger that if the EU ETS is applied to aviation that it will create perverse incentives if then rolled out to other modes. The reasons for this are baseline emissions from coaches and other forms of public transport are likely to increase as older vehicles are replaced with new modern engines and congestion on the roads becomes worse. Despite this slightly increasing baseline coaches will remain an extremely efficient form of transport with very large net benefits in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

  6.9  The Government should think seriously about the implications of including aviation and other forms of transport in the EU ETS.

February 2006

58   This date is contained in the National Express Group Corporate Responsibility Report 2004 and was prepared in an independent assessment of our greenhouse gas emissions by the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management. A copy of the report is available at Back

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