Labour’s landslide: Reaction from the transport industry

Keir Starmer and party’s manifesto said little about transport in the run up to the election but, if he wants any guidance over those first few months, there are plenty in the industry offering advice.

white and red plane on the sky

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive: ‘When the automotive sector succeeds, so does Britain. So as SMMT congratulates the Labour Party on its election victory, we look forward to working with the new government to implement its proposals which come at a pivotal moment for our industry.

‘The next five years will be decisive, with a once-in-a-generation switch to zero emission vehicles alongside the rise of connected and automated vehicles – all against a backdrop of rising global competition as countries seek to put their own automotive markets and manufacturing ahead of the game. The need for policymaking that backs our sector is as important as ever.

‘Automotive’s role as a driving force for economic growth is clear: our businesses employ 800,000 people in well paid and rewarding jobs across the country, we remain Britain’s largest export sector and we are essential to the nation’s decarbonisation goals. As SMMT’s Vision 2035 sets out, the right policies in the next parliament will be those that deliver a globally competitive industrial strategy, affordable and sustainable energy, a mass EV market, strong free trade relations and a workforce that’s skilled up for the future.

‘Indeed, the UK has the potential to build more than a million of the very greenest models every year by 2035, provided we can sustain investment though increased competitiveness. With the global industry shifting to EV production and manufacturers tending to locate near to where their products are sold, the new government must create the conditions for mass EV adoption in Britain. As SMMT data on the new car market published yesterday shows, we’re in an increasingly strong position to deliver that growth, with overall new car demand exceeding one million at the half-year point for first time since 2019 and electric car uptake increasing to take a 19% market share in the month.

‘Despite this, there is still much to do. Accelerating EV adoption requires a bold plan to make zero emission mobility possible for everyone, with incentives for EV purchases, fairer VAT on public charging and infrastructure that’s rolled out in every part the country, ahead of need. A plan for decarbonising light and heavy commercial vehicles, buses, coaches and minibuses – along with a dedicated infrastructure strategy – is also essential to keep Britain’s businesses, services and public transport on the move.

‘Britain’s progress towards those goals must begin now and with it will come huge economic, environmental and social benefits. Automotive manufacturers have invested vast amounts in the net zero emission transition over the past decade and while the commitments of 2023 were a massive vote of confidence, we must move even faster in the next five years. We now look to continue our productive partnership with government to ensure the long term success of the sector and all those who depend on us for their mobility, services and livelihoods.’

David Savage , Geotab VP for UK and Ireland:Congratulations to our new PM Keir Starmer and the Labour Party, but we believe they need to go further on EV than the pledges included in their manifesto. Reinstating the ICE ban is welcome, but we also need meaningful incentives to drive more private and fleet buyers into electric cars and vans, such as grants and charging initiatives.’

Joe Tighe, CEO KleanDrive:KleanDrive congratulates the Labour Party and welcomes the new Government. Prime Minister Keir Starmer and his party have made a promise to accelerate the UK’s transition to an electrified future, and KleanDrive calls on the new Government to rapidly reassess the Zebra scheme to include incentives for the conversion of existing diesel buses to electric.

‘The cost of repowering a diesel bus is significantly lower than purchasing a new battery electric bus. With a saving of £350,000 per bus, this approach can lead to substantial financial savings. For example, even if just a quarter of the UK’s buses were repowered instead of replaced, the total savings would be over £3 billion.

‘We know the government has limited funds but big ambitions, and the UK needs to hit our environmental goals as quickly as possible. Government support for repowering current vehicles rather than purchasing entirely new ones will not only support the UK economy, but is a far more cost-effective, and faster way to transition the bus fleet to zero emissions and accelerate the improvement of air quality in urban areas.’

Mike Nakrani, CEO, VEV:The new government’s pledge to reinstate the 2030 ICE ban and accelerate EV charging infrastructure, is a positive signal for the eMobility industry. Whilst commercial fleets are already leading the way in the transition from diesel to EVs, this is reliant on fleet-owners building their own charging infrastructure in their depots.

‘Transport and logistics suppliers are key contributors to scope 3 carbon emissions*, moving goods and services through the country’s supply chains, and they need a network of charging infrastructure across the country – ‘green corridors’ – or funding support to build it.

‘The new government’s pledge to deliver £1.8 billion investment in our port infrastructure would be a key element of the UK’s net zero journey. As hubs that feed our supply chains and the economy itself, ports are talking to us about how electrification of their supply chains will be a major step forward in UK decarbonisation.’

Chris Allen, Managing Director LEVC: ‘The new Prime Minister and his party have made a promise to accelerate the UK’s transition to an electrified future, including a pledge to reinstate the 2030 ICE ban which we welcome. However, to deliver on this ambition and seize the opportunities for manufacturing growth that will enable it, we need targeted consumer incentives to continue for commercial and niche vehicle drivers, including for taxis. More than half of London’s black cabs are now zero-emission capable – with uptake growing in towns and cities nationwide. To keep momentum, the new Government must continue the Plug-in Taxi Grant beyond the current financial year. Removing VAT from public charging networks will also keep costs down for business (and private) users to help ensure switching to an EV is an equitable choice for those without access to home charging.

‘LEVC also calls on the new government to outline a clear industrial strategy to provide some much needed certainty to help secure investment in the UK. This investment will be critical to driving supply chain development and helping to maximise the input of the country’s high skills base and manufacturing excellence. These elements will be key in affirming the UK’s relevance in the developing global automotive landscape. LEVC looks forward to working with the new Government to further accelerate the adoption of clean and accessible public mobility solutions.’

Jacob Tilley, Director at Cavendish Consulting: ‘The aviation sector may have to temper expectations regarding its immediate prioritisation. Labour’s primary focus in transport will likely be the nationalisation of the railways, a key manifesto commitment, and an area where the government traditionally plays a more active role. Aviation may not top the agenda initially.

‘However, a Labour Government is expected to take a pragmatic approach by advancing policies and initiatives that align with their goals on decarbonisation and won’t require further consultations. This means we can anticipate swift action on Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) mandate legislation, as it aligns with Keir Starmer’s environmental objectives and builds on groundwork laid by the current administration.

‘Additionally, Labour is likely to continue exploring options for a Revenue Certainty Mechanism to support the aviation sector, recognising its importance in attracting investment and delivering on their Green Industrial Strategy. While no final decision has been made on the model, the party appears to understand the necessity of this mechanism for sustainability and growth within the aviation sector and the wider UK economy.

‘Airspace Modernisation is another area where Labour has shown significant interest. They are keen to accelerate progress in this domain, recognising the carbon savings that can be made simply by addressing inefficiencies and enhancing the overall effectiveness of air traffic management.

‘In summary, while aviation may not be the immediate priority for a Labour Government, key initiatives such as the SAF mandate, Revenue Certainty Mechanism, and Airspace Modernisation are expected to see continued support and expedited action. The sector should prepare for these developments and engage with policymakers to ensure their successful implementation.’

Richard Staveley, Chief Executive Officer at EO Charging: ‘The Net Zero mandate, a crucial objective for climate control, must continue under the new government. The Labour Party’s election manifesto, to positively impact climate change by accelerating the move to greener transport and developing the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) is welcomed by the sector. Now, at this critical time for climate change, the industry needs determined action and expects the Labour government to deliver on their election manifesto.

‘Transport is responsible for almost a quarter of global emissions, with commercial fleets accounting for a large proportion of this. Emission-free transport is essential to ensuring the UK meets its Net Zero mandate, so making the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) will be a crucial component.

‘We already know that developing and investing in the right infrastructure to support electrification is important, but focusing on the electrification of commercial and public sector fleets is fundamental. We need to see Labour developing and implementing a strategy that tackles the challenges to EV adoption and creates long-term reliable funding, particularly for commercial and public sector fleets, which stand to have the greatest environmental impact.

‘The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) found that out of the 679,822 EVs sold in the UK in 2024 so far, 407,661 were across the fleet sector. However, due to the high initial costs of electrification, commercial and public sector fleets often rely on local governments to distribute EV funding. We’ve already seen a dramatic positive impact from initiatives such as the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme that have enabled bus operators to electrify their fleets at pace. Introducing similar schemes to support commercial fleet electrification will undoubtedly have a positive impact and will accelerate EV fleet adoption. If funding does not materialise, this will delay fleet electrification, and achieving Net Zero goals will become incredibly difficult.

‘Labour must commit to a robust funding strategy that transcends local politics and ensures a stable environment for fleet operators to transition to EVs. Exploring alternative funding models such as Scotland’s direct-to-operator approach, which streamlines the process and empowers fleets to use resources effectively, could be another answer.’

Olivia White, Director at Cavendish Consulting: ‘In transport, we expect to see a focus on local schemes being delivered by combined authorities and a focus on operation, maintenance and delivering projects already in development, rather than new ones. One of the first big decisions for the new transport secretary will be a decision on Lower Thames Crossing which was moved due to the general election and is now expected on 4 October 2024.

‘It was great to see plans to promote and grow rail freight in the manifesto, a promise which is in line with Labour’s green commitments, but more challenging than ever with part of HS2 cancelled. With regard to HS2, it will be interesting to see what will become of the previous Government’s Network North plans which were announced with the cancelling of the Manchester leg of the rail project.’

Paul Day
Paul is the editor of Public Sector News.


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