Should cars get special treatment when buses are driving a cleaner future?

Claire Haigh: Should cars get special treatment when buses are driving a cleaner future?

With local authorities required to set out their initial plans for Clean Air Zones (CAZs) by the end of March, next month's UK Bus Summit is perfectly timed to examine why buses are an integral part of the solution to Clean Air Zones rather than the problem.

The event will allow key industry professionals to disseminate best practice and give all stakeholders the opportunity to exchange views as part of the consultation. It will also feature why buses are central to city economies as well as how 'disruptive technology' may affect the bus industry.

Claire Haigh will be speaking at the event next month, in a session on the role of the bus in reducing emissions. Below, in her blog she gives a brief foresight into what the session may cover.

To hear more about this topic, book your place now to attend on the 8th February.

Our cities are choking and traffic is grinding to a halt under the twin perils of pollution and congestion. Only a radical change in how we travel will tackle the root cause of these challenges.

If ever there was a moment to harness the potential of the bus, it's now.

The Government is under increasing pressure to tackle the UK's air pollution crisis, with 38 of England's 43 air quality zones breaching EU legal limits for NOx. But the Government's draft Air Quality Plan published last year misses the mark by identifying buses as the priority diesel vehicles for local authorities to target within Clean Air Zones and sparing private cars from any penalties.

Diesel cars are the single biggest contributor to NOx emissions on the road, accounting for 41% of all emissions from road transport. A journey by a modern Euro 6 diesel car emits 10 times more NOx per passenger than a comparable journey by a Euro VI bus.

Moreover, the actual emissions for diesel cars are likely to be considerably higher than their stated Euro standard. Recent real-world tests by Hager Environmental & Atmospheric Technology has found that emissions from Euro 6 cars for example emit up to 6 times more emissions than their Euro standard would indicate.

By contrast, real world testing of new Euro VI buses – and those retrofitted to this standard – demonstrate that they are 95% cleaner than previous models and emit fewer emissions overall than the average diesel Euro 6 car despite having 15 to 20 times the capacity.

We cannot solve our pollution problem while bypassing the biggest polluters, and Clean Air Zones must more accurately reflect actual NOx contributions.

The sheer number of vehicles on our roads is inextricably linked to poor air quality, and the Government must take tougher action on urban congestion. A report by Greener Journeys last year revealed that a halving of average city traffic speeds leads to a 50% increase in emissions from larger vehicles.

With local authorities with roads breaching legal pollution levels due to publish their draft plans to tackle air pollution in the coming months, it is vital that the latest generation of clean British buses are embraced as part of the solution.

Faced with the twin perils afflicting our towns and cities – congestion and pollution – the Government must not shy away from politically difficult decisions such as increasing fuel duty, in order to encourage the switch to more sustainable modes of transport. Moreover, putting buses at the centre of air quality strategy would support UK manufacturing. At least 80% of urban buses sold in the UK are built in the UK.

That's why Greener Journeys is leading an unprecedented bus sector coalition to urge local decision-makers to recognise the economic, environment and social benefits of Euro VI buses and put them at the heart of their plans to improve local air quality.

Members of the coalition include the UK's leading bus manufacturers, engine manufacturers, bus operators, an exhaust after treatment supplier and sustainable transport groups: Alexander Dennis (ADL), Arriva, Baumot UK, Cummins, First, Go-Ahead, Greener Journeys, Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, National Express, Optare, Stagecoach, Trent Barton and Wrights.

New Euro VI buses and buses retrofitted to Euro VI standard must be part of the solution. The quickest and most cost-effective way for local authorities to tackle roadside pollution will be to make full use of the range of Euro VI bus technologies, including fitting older bus engines with exhaust clean-up technology or repowering the bus with a new engine and exhaust after-treatment system to bring them up to Euro VI standard.

Now is the time to begin the transition towards the future of city mobility, which must be ultra low emission and high efficiency shared solutions. If we can begin to change public perceptions, the buses of today can provide the solution for tomorrow.

To hear more about this topic, book your place now to attend on the 8th February.