• Celebrating Scotland’s Plugged-In Communities

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    • Celebrating Scotland’s Plugged-In Communities
    • by David Kelly
      Director for Scotland

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    Community Transport is leading the way to net zero thanks to new investment from Transport Scotland with support from Energy Saving Trust and backed by CTA’s Team Scotland.

    We’re delighted that 18 Community Transport operators across Scotland will benefit from £1.6 million of new funding to purchase Electric Vehicles (EVs) after being successful in the second round of the Plugged-In Communities Grant Fund.

    Since 2021, over £2 million has been invested in the Community Transport sector’s transition to a zero-emissions fleet by Transport Scotland through the Plugged-In Communities Grant Fund. A total of 23 operators in urban, rural and island communities have now been supported to purchase EVs, reducing carbon emissions, improving local air quality, tackling car dependency and encouraging modal shift. This represents an essential investment in Scotland’s Just Transition to net zero, ending our contribution to climate change in a fair way.

    In 2021/22, funding was given to 5 recipients (including 3 CTA members) for a total of 8 EVs. In 2022/23, the second round of the funding was scaled-up to £1.6 million, meaning that another 18 organisations (including 12 CTA members) will now receive financial support to purchase 18 EVs (including 1 bus, 4 vans and 13 minibuses). This time we were also delighted to work closely with our partners at Energy Saving Trust to improve the application and assessment process, as well as score applications.

    Congratulations to all 18 Community Transport operators who secured funding thanks to their excellent bids in a strong and highly competitive field of applicants! We’re especially proud of our 12 CTA members who were successful:

    They’ve told us how much this investment in Community Transport means to them and their staff, volunteers and passengers, as well as just how big an impact these new EVs will have in their communities:

    “If it was not for the Plugged-In Communities grant then it would be years before we could afford to purchase an EV ourselves. It will decrease our carbon emissions and give a quieter journey for all our passengers who are looking forward to delivery of the minibus.

    “Hopefully this will be the start of changing our whole fleet to electric, which is difficult because of the costs involved. We hope the funding continues to enable other Community Transport groups to have the opportunity to have access to electric or hydrogen vehicles.”

    Jayne Fraser, Buchan Dial-a-Community Bus

    “We are delighted to have been awarded funding from Plugged-In Communities to replace a VW Caddy (2012) with a Mercedes eVito Tourer L2, which will save 2.19 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Without this funding we would have been unable to replace our ageing diesel vehicle with an electric car for the benefit of the whole community.

    “This vehicle will be used to deliver our door-to-door demand responsive transport service and reduce the use of privately-owned cars. This is essential in our area where there is no alternative either due to little or no public transport or no affordable or accessible taxis.”

    Janet Saunders, Annandale Community Transport Services

    “We ordered a Fiat Ducato electric 10-seater wheelchair accessible minibus, which is due to be delivered sometime in June. We will be reducing our carbon emissions and introducing the public to the benefits of electric vehicles.”

    Jacqueline Gallacher, Larkhall and District Volunteer Group

    “It was excellent news to hear that we had been successful in our grant application. This will be the second electric vehicle in our fleet, which will mean 40% of our vehicles will be fully electric.

    “The vehicle we will be acquiring is a Mercedes Evito 9 seat vehicle, which will be a great asset to our community. It will be used primarily to transport students to college in Thurso, a round trip of 100 miles sometimes twice daily. It will also assist in patient transport to hospitals in Inverness, Wick, Golspie and Thurso”

    Ian Harrison, Transport for Tongue

    “Our new EV will be the first Mercedes 16 seat EV in Scotland. We are delighted to be able to offer this service to transport members on trips and outings, as well as to groups to attend events, competitions, outings and much more.

    “The EV will support our transition to a carbon neutral organisation, which we aspire to achieve within the timeframe set out by the Sottish Government.”

    Susan Dever, Coalfield Community Transport

    “We are currently waiting the conversion and delivery of an Fiat E Ducato, which will have 13 seat and space for two wheelchairs. Switching to a fully electric minibus means we can contribute to the Scottish Government’s net zero target and reduce car miles travelled by 20 per cent by 2030.

    “We would encourage anyone to apply for future funding as it very simple and the 100% cost of the vehicle being covered made this a no brainer for us.

    Shaun Moat, Forres Osprey Bus

    “The Island of Hoy Development Trust are thrilled to have been successful in our funding bid to Plugged-in Communities, which will allow us to purchase a new fully electric minibus to support our island’s community bus operation.

    “Since the start of the service in 2013, our intention has been to provide green community transport for residents and visitors alike… Our original diesel/electric hybrid drive-train minibuses have now reached the end of their useful lives.  

    “The addition of a fully electric vehicle will see a long-held ambition finally realised… and boost our participation in the Scottish Government’s ‘flagship’ Carbon Neutral Islands project, which has the goal of reaching  carbon neutrality by 2040.”

    Deborah Jaques, Island of Hoy Development Trust

    “We plan to expand the services we can offer once we have our new electric vehicle and are pleased that we can play our part in reducing harmful emissions – very important for a low lying island like ours! It can’t come soon enough since we are replacing a 17 year old diesel vehicle.”

    Nicky Thompson, Sanday Afternoon Club

    We’re now calling on Jenny Gilruth MSP, Scotland’s Transport Minister, to build on the success of the first two rounds of Plugged-In Communities, empower more communities to take climate action and continue to support the Community Transport sector’s journey to net zero in 2023/24 by delivering a third round next financial year with scaled-up investment. We’ve written to the Minister and you can read our letter here.

    The level of need and the scale of demand in the Community Transport sector has been strongly demonstrated. The second round was significantly over-subscribed with a total of 52 applications worth over £7 million, more than 4 times the total value of the Fund.

    Before the impact of the second round, our More Than a Minibus report in September 2022 found that 12% of the sector’s Scottish fleet was electric or hybrid compared to just 2% of all road vehicles and nearly 16% of commercial bus fleets. We estimated that Community Transport in Scotland faced a ‘net zero funding gap’ of nearly £90 million to decarbonise the full national fleet given that the high upfront capital costs of EVs are prohibitive for most operators.

    So, we’re pleased that the second round of Plugged-In Communities has helped to tackle this funding shortfall, but it remains a drop in the ocean. Investment from the public sector and other funders needs to be scaled-up in the months and years ahead, as recognised by the Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 (STPR2).

    We look forward to working again with the Minister, Transport Scotland and Energy Saving Trust to ensure the Community Transport sector receives the financial support it needs and deserves to accelerate its progress towards a nationwide zero-emissions fleet.

    Through our new Climate Action programme, we’re also developing new expertise and resources to advise and support operators on their transition to net zero, as well as creating new forums as platforms for collaboration, partnership and peer-to-peer learning between operators on climate action, decarbonisation and EVs.

    Do you have feedback you’d like to share about the Plugged-In Communities Grant Fund 2022/23 that could make 2023/24 even better? Feel free to drop me a line at david.kelly@ctauk.org.

    We’re working on new research about the Community Transport sector’s journey to net zero and we’d love to hear about what you’re working on. Have you transitioned your fleet to Electric Vehicles? Are you innovating with e-bikes or encouraging lift share? Share your case study with us via scotland@ctauk.org and you could feature in our exciting report!

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