£3.6m Lothian Buses upgrade to fight emissions war

Plea for government funding to retrofit 250 double deckers. Picture: Kenny Smith
Plea for government funding to retrofit 250 double deckers. Picture: Kenny Smith
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LOTHIAN Buses will ramp up the war against air pollution levels by upgrading almost 250 double deckers to meet European emission standards.

The operator plans to spend £3.6 million retrofitting 40 per cent of its fleet, and will plea for Scottish Government funds.

At a cost of £15,000 per bus, overhauling vehicles is a much cheaper option than buying new ones.

The plans come as an air quality progress report to be considered by the council’s transport committee next week revealed improvements across the city. However, high levels of nitrogen dioxide still remain at hot spots including St John’s Road, Angle Park Terrace, Slateford Road, Nicolson Street, Great Junction Street and South Clerk Street.

Queensferry Road, between the Drum Brae and Barnton junctions, remains another problem area.

Monitoring has been extended to the Cowgate, Easter Road, Glasgow Road at Newbridge, Gorgie Road, the Grassmarket, Inverleith Row and London Road due to high nitrogen dioxide levels.

Lothian Buses – which wants to retrofit 240 vehicles – has bought more than 300 conventional low-emission diesel buses and 25 diesel-electric hybrid vehicles in recent years, using the government’s Scottish Green Bus Fund.

The operator’s environmental manager Dr Steve Johnson said: “Sustainability is at the heart of our business, not only through direct improvements to our fleet and business practices but also through the encouragement of sustainable travel options to reduce private car journeys in the city.”

Green campaigners welcomed the move, but said more needed to be done in the fight against air pollution.

Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said: “Improving the buses is a good step forward, but we won’t fix the problems unless we deal with the level of car traffic as well.”

Lothians Green MSP Alison Johnstone called on government ministers to stump up the money. She said: “Lothian Buses are making very positive strides to upgrade their fleet and I urge on the Scottish Government to fund this latest plan. Air quality in parts of our capital is unacceptably poor.”

A plea for cash will now be submitted to Transport Scotland, which said funding was dished out on a “case-by-case basis”. The city council, however, said it would not be offering direct financial backing.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “One option might be to shift the focus of the Green Bus Fund, which concentrates on new low-carbon vehicles, to cover retrofitting if it could be demonstrated that this would be a cost effective way to deliver better air quality, lower carbon emissions and increased patronage.”

City transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said the plan was “welcome”, but added: “With increasing vehicle numbers and a commitment from local authorities to work towards national air quality standards, there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Kids enjoy trip through bus wash

Lothian Buses is supporting the charity It’s Good 2 Give by organising regular visits to its depot for children.

The organisation, which supports young people suffering from cancer and their families, runs workshops for children.

This month, children were given an exclusive tour of the bus company’s central depot at Annandale Street, which included the chance to “be the bus driver”, a trip through the bus wash and the chance to see the engineering department in action.

Charity founder Lynne McNicoll said: “Going through the bus wash was the highlight.”