City centre ban call on oldest and dirtiest buses

Lothian Buses has made many changes to its fleet. Picture: Greg Macvean
Lothian Buses has made many changes to its fleet. Picture: Greg Macvean
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AN MSP from the Capital is calling for older buses which fail to meet tough emission standards to be banned from the centre of Edinburgh.

Scottish Nationalist Marco Biagi said with pollution levels rising, the Capital should follow the example of some English cities and allow only the cleanest buses into the centre.

He claimed latest figures showed 55 per cent of Lothian Buses and just 13 per cent of the current First Bus fleet would meet the required standard to be allowed into central Oxford when that city’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) comes in next year. Other cities with LEZs include London and Norwich.

Mr Biagi, MSP for Edinburgh Central, said: “Air pollution can have serious health effects, causing or aggravating heart and lung problems. ­Children and the elderly are more at-risk.

“In 2009 both Lothian Buses and First Scotland rejected a voluntary deal that would have seen them bring all their vehicles up to top standards by October 2015. Lothian Buses however deserve praise for what they’ve done since, with huge improvements in their fleet.

“There must be no place in our city for the lingering antiques that just belch out noxious fumes. It’s time to lay down the law and take action for city centre residents, pedestrians and cyclists. The air we breathe should sustain us, not harm us.” Earlier this year an additional six miles of Edinburgh streets were designated as officially polluted. The polluted zone now covers commercial, tourist and historic areas – including Princes Street, George Street, the Royal Mile and the Grassmarket. Dr Steve Johnson, environmental manager at Lothian Buses, said 60 per cent of the company’s fleet now met the Oxford LEZ entrance standard.

He continued: “Lothian Buses is committed to achieving the highest UK standards in environmental excellence for our bus services in the city.

“The company has been successful in winning funding from all three rounds of the Scottish Green Bus Fund securing the maximum £3.25 million available. This has been coupled to an investment by the company of over £10 million to introduce 25 hybrid buses to Edinburgh, with a further 20 on order.”

But he said withdrawing buses before they were “life expired” was wasteful.

A First spokesman said his company was committed to reducing its carbon footprint.

But he said: “Removing buses from Edinburgh city centre will only encourage bus ­passengers into private cars, which will inevitably lead to greater pollution elsewhere in the city and more congestion.”

City transport convener ­Lesley Hinds said the council was already looking at creating an LEZ and a committee report on that and other options was expected in August.

She said: “I’d also encourage MSPs to press the Scottish ­Government for continued funding for newer vehicles.”