Blanket ban on diesel could reduce bus services by 80%

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Greener Journeys and Professor David Begg argue that Euro 6 diesel buses should be front and centre of all air quality improvement plans

Greener Journeys has claimed that a blanket ban on all diesel vehicles in the UK’s new Clean Air Zones would have a devastating impact on local communities.

Local authorities with roads breaching legal pollution levels have until March next year to publish their draft plans to tackle air pollution in their areas. Diesel vehicles are widely expected to be targeted with new restrictions or fines. Oxford and Cambridge are among the local authorities who have already announced their intention to ban all diesel vehicles, including buses.

Professor David Begg, a former chairman of the Government’s Commission for Integrated Transport, said that while Clean Air Zones are vital, implementing a blanket ban on all diesel vehicles would have ‘disastrous consequences’ for the environment, economy and society. Instead, he called on local authorities to target older diesel cars, which are the biggest contributors to air pollution, making up 41% of nitrogen dioxide emissions from road transport, compared with 30% for diesel vans and 6% for buses and coaches.

He claimed that a ban on diesel buses could prompt an 80% cut in bus services, leading to a 22% cut in employment; an 11% reduction in adult skills; and a 29% increase in social deprivation.

A bus sector coalition led by Greener Journeys is urging local decision-makers to recognise the benefits of Euro 6 British diesel buses and put them at the heart of their plans to improve local air quality.

The coalition argues that retrofitting older bus engines or repowering a bus with a new engine and exhaust after-treatment system can bring them up to Euro 6 emissions standards and is the quickest and most cost-effective way for local authorities to tackle roadside pollution.

It said real-world testing of bus engines shows that the latest generation of certified clean buses emit fewer emissions overall than the average diesel Euro 6 car, despite having 15 to 20 times the capacity.

Prof David Begg said: “While local government rightly try to take dirty diesel vehicles off the streets, there is a danger they will demonise and penalise a new generation of independently-tested clean diesel buses that are in fact part of the solution, not the problem, to excessive air pollution.

“We must be aware of unintended consequences of waging war on diesel, and avoid tarring these incredibly clean buses with the same brush as the toxic car fleet on our roads today. Instead, we need to tackle the older diesel cars and vans that are clogging up our streets. If buses are viewed as the problem, and not integral to the solution, then the unintended consequence will be more polluting cars on the road and poorer air quality.”

Claire Haigh, Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, said: “Britain’s streets are clogged with high polluting diesel cars which are causing a public health emergency and costing tens of thousands of lives each year.

“If local authorities are serious about tackling air pollution, they must put this new generation of clean British diesel buses, and buses retrofitted to the same low-emission standard, front and centre of their plans.

“Not only are the latest diesel buses cleaner than diesel cars, but taking cars off the road would also help reduce congestion as a fully loaded double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road. Furthermore, putting buses at the centre of the air quality strategy would support UK manufacturing as at least 80% of urban buses sold in the UK are built in the UK, compared with just 13% of new cars.”