We must seize the opportunity on air quality

Giles Fearnley, Managing Director, First Bus: We must seize the opportunity on air quality

The UK Bus Summit on 8th February will tackle why buses are an integral part of the solution to Clean Air Zones (CAZs) rather than the problem. With local authorities required to set out their CAZ plans by March 2018 this event is perfectly timed. The Summit will also give speakers and delegates the opportunity to disseminate best practice and give all stakeholders the opportunity to exchange views as part of the consultation.

The conference will also look at topics such as why buses are central to city economies as well as how 'disruptive technology' may affect the bus industry.

Giles Fearnley will be speaking in a session entitled 'The road map to zero emissions' and below he discusses why we mus seize the opportunity on air quality.

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

Since the last bus summit, Government is waking up to the fact that what kills good bus services - congestion - is also lethal for us and our children.

The need to tackle the atrocious air quality in many of our towns and cities is rising to the top of the political agenda.

This is no abstract green debate - ask any parents at a school gate on a busy urban road. With asthma and other respiratory diseases at record levels amongst children, they want something done about air quality - now.

Consider this: 1.5m people move to urban areas each week worldwide. Congestion is an increasing problem - in terms of economic and environmental cost - which it is clear more cars cannot solve.

This has thrown the attention on bus. In some cases, this is as much about political convenience than careful analysis. But it's clear bus has a major part to play in cleaning the air we breathe.

However, for a sector that always complains it's normally overlooked, not everyone seems willing to embrace the limelight!

Let's be clear: meeting the air quality challenge is an unalloyed opportunity for our sector.

We have a first-class environmental product in Euro VI. A bus that produces 95% fewer NOx emissions than its predecessors.

A city-wide Euro VI fleet will make great strides towards helping a city hit its air quality target on its own. That's why First Bus is working with Leeds City Council to provide just that - whilst they put more than £120m into bus priority to ensure that we can provide the best possible services.

And as a sector, we're ideally placed to exploit the benefits of electrification and alternative fuels. Coupled with better connectivity and smart ticketing, providing a really attractive service to passengers making the switch from private car.

What's missing is the pipeline of skills and capacity to retrofit our existing fleet to Euro VI standard and develop those new technologies which are coming on stream. Where are the plans for a green bus engineering academy as part of our post-Brexit industrial strategy?

First Bus serves 40 of the UK's largest towns and cities including eight of the 11 most densely populated. We're at the heart of this debate and realise the need to be agile and responsive to government - both national and local - on air quality.

In return, we ask that government be equally responsive - to make it as easy as possible for town halls to access the funding streams and work with operators to provide the clean air and better bus services we all want to see.