Electric cars to be allowed in bus lanes

Electric car plugged in and charging Image copyright Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Image caption Sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles rose by 40% in 2015, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders

Electric car drivers will be allowed to travel in bus lanes as part of plans to boost usage of low-emission vehicles in England.

Free parking spaces for plug-in car owners and streetlight charging points are also set to be introduced.

The government awarded cash to four areas which successfully bid for a share of £40m funding.

Transport secretary Patrick McLaughlin said the councils had shown "exciting, innovative ideas" for electric cars.

Nottinghamshire and Derby, Milton Keynes, Bristol and London qualified for a share of the cash.

'World leader'

Bus lanes in Milton Keynes will be re-branded as low emission lanes giving plug-in vehicles the same priority as buses at traffic lights.

The town, which has been awarded £9m, will also build an advice centre offering short-term loans for electric car purchases.

It is also proposing to open all its 20,000 parking bays for free to electric cars.

Nottingham City Council will also open up some of its bus lanes, and use part of its £6m grant to install 230 charge points.

Image caption Councils are proposing a number of electric car charge points on residential streets

A spokesman for Derby City Council said any change to allow electric vehicles to use bus lanes would be subject to consultation.

"I want to see thousands more greener vehicles on our roads and I am proud to back this ambition with £40m," Mr McLaughlin said of the Go Ultra Low City Scheme.

He described the UK as a "world leader" in the uptake of low-emission vehicles and said the government planned to invest £600m by 2020.

London has been given £13m and will use the money to introduce charging points and free parking spaces.

'Vanity project'

In Bristol, £7m will be used to introduce free residential parking for low-emission vehicles, access to three car share lanes and over 80 fast chargers.

The scheme is also providing £5m worth of funding for low-emission development projects in Oxford, Dundee, York and the North East.

However, the TaxPayers' Alliance criticised the grants as a "vanity project" which would benefit only a small number of people.

Chief executive Jonathan Isaby said: "Going green is a worthy goal, but why should already hard-pressed taxpayers be expected to subsidise the expensive choice of vehicle of such a tiny minority?"

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