The UK's bus, coach, and minibus market is showing signs of resurgence after a challenging few years, with 4,932 new units registered in 2023, as revealed by the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

This represents a significant 44.6 per cent increase compared to 2022 levels, indicating a gradual return of passenger confidence. However, despite this uptick, registrations remain 16.0 per cent below the levels seen in 2019, highlighting the lingering effects of the pandemic on the industry.

Gallery: UK new bus and coach 2023 market

The revival of the market has been primarily driven by robust investment in single and double-decker buses, with registrations soaring by 52.5 per cent and 173.6 per cent, respectively. Additionally, minibuses have experienced notable growth, with a rise of 18.3 per cent over the year, as fleets across the UK invest in new passenger transport assets.

A noteworthy trend within the sector is the increasing adoption of electric or hydrogen vehicles, which accounted for a remarkable 45.1 per cent of new single and double-decker bus registrations. This figure nearly triples the market share of new cars, underscoring the pivotal role buses play in Britain's journey towards achieving net-zero emissions. With 1,159 zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) buses entering service last year, the UK emerged as Europe's largest ZEV bus market by volume.

UK new bus and coach 2023 market

However, challenges persist, particularly within the minibus segment. Unlike van drivers who have a license derogation allowing them to operate zero-emission vehicles weighing up to 4.25 tonnes, minibus drivers must wait until 2025 before being permitted to do so. This delay in licensing is stifling demand, as many minibus fleets defer their investment in zero-emission vehicles until their drivers are authorised to drive them.

To address these hurdles and accelerate the transition to greener transportation, the industry is calling for swift action. Funding initiatives like the Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) programme, initiated in 2022, have provided crucial support. However, with 58 expressions of interest filed for the second round of funding at the end of 2023, there is a pressing need for rapid approval and allocation of funds to expedite the rollout of affordable, zero-emission mass mobility solutions.