City Council secures further £700,000 to upgrade buses and cut air pollution

Published: Friday, 22nd March 2019

Oxford City Council has secured a further £700,000 to upgrade the city’s buses and reduce toxic air pollution – bringing the total funding to improve Oxford’s buses to £2.3m.

The £671,550 will retrofit 37 buses from three providers – Oxford Bus Company, Stagecoach Oxford and Arriva–to Euro 6 standard. Euro 6 is currently the cleanest form of combustion engine.

The funding was provided to the City Council from the Government’s Clean Bus Technology Fund. The fund supports projects to upgrade buses with technology to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions in areas with poor air quality

This brings the total amount of funding received by the City Council from the fund to £2,334,480.

In February last year, the City Council was awarded £1.7m to retrofit 78 buses to be ultra-low emission – and convert five of Oxford’s sightseeing buses to become the city’s first fully-electric double-decker buses.

Data from the City Council’s 74 air pollution monitoring locations has shown that levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide fell by an average of 22.7% between 2016 and 2017 – the largest ever year-to-year drop.

This drop has been attributed to Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach Oxford introducing Euro 6 buses into Oxford from 2014, but particularly in 2016 and 2017.

2016 report from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health found that outside air pollution – of which about 75% comes from road traffic in Oxford – cuts short 40,000 lives a year in the UK.

In January this year, Oxford City Council, and Oxfordshire County Council published updated proposals for a Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) in Oxford city centre.

The updated proposals follow 15 months of listening to businesses, residents, transport operators and health experts in Oxfordshire and set a journey towards zero transport emissions in Oxford by 2035.  The City Council is working in partnership with stakeholders to deliver this goal.

The aim of the ZEZ is to tackle Oxford’s air pollution and protect the health of everyone who lives in, works in and visits the city. It is also expected that the ZEZ will improve air pollution levels across Oxfordshire because the buses and taxis that serve Oxford also serve towns and villages across the county.

Councillor Tom Hayes, Board Member for A Safer and Greener Environment, said: “We said that our Zero Emission Zone has to be practical in order to be effective, and that means Oxford's bus fleet becoming one of the cleanest in the country. I'm thrilled that Oxford's bid for money has been successful and we will be one of a handful of councils to share the Clean Bus Technology Fund, receiving one of the largest grants of £671,550 to retrofit 37 buses. It's excellent news that today's funding boost takes the City Council's total grants for cleaner buses to £2.3m.

“We know that cleaner buses means less polluted air - latest figures show a drop in harmful nitrogen dioxide levels by an average of 22.7% because of Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach Oxford introducing ultra-low emission buses.  I look forward to the Zero Emission Zone becoming a practical reality, protecting the health of our city."

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “I am delighted to announce a further £25 million to retrofit 1,817 buses through the Clean Bus Technology Fund.

“We all know that air pollution is the top environmental risk to health in the UK. Nitrogen dioxide emissions must be lowered if we want to ensure cleaner and healthier air across the country.

“Local authorities are the best placed to introduce systems that work for their areas, which is why we are working closely with them to ensure they have the appropriate funding and support.”

Transport Minister Jesse Norman said: “We are committed to driving down emissions across all modes of transport, and I’m delighted to see the bus industry putting itself at the forefront of this.

“This £25m investment will help the sector work towards the continued acceleration of low emission buses and a 100% low emission bus fleet in England and Wales.”

Phil Southall, Managing Director of Oxford Bus Company, said: “This is fantastic news for the city of Oxford and will further help us progress towards introducing ultra-low emission buses more widely in Oxford. The extra funding will enable us to upgrade more vehicles to Euro VI standard. This is in addition to the original funding that will enable 61 vehicles to be upgraded and our five City Sightseeing Oxford buses to become electric.

“We’ve always prided ourselves as being at the forefront of leading the UK on environmental technology innovation and over half of our buses are powered by hybrid technology. Thanks to the new funding we can take this even further.”

Chris Coleman, Managing Director of Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, said: “This is incredibly good news as buses have a key role to play in boosting the region’s air quality, as well as addressing damaging congestion, growing our economy and bringing communities together”

“This new funding will enable us to further upgrade our fleet, reducing emissions and improving the environment in which our vehicles operate in”.

“I therefore look forward to working closely with the City Council to deliver these important fleet upgrades”.

Simon Finnie, Area Managing Director for Arriva Midlands (South): “We are committed to positioning bus travel as a viable alternative to travelling by car. In order to do this we need to ensure that our customers are given access to transport that meets their growing expectations in terms of technology and comfort, but that also delivers with regards to environmental standards.

“Arriva is focused on providing the very best transport services. We believe working in partnership with Local Authorities is the best way to make bus travel an even more attractive choice and linking people to work, education and employment opportunities locally. This announcement underpins our strategy with regards to investment in eco-friendly technologies, and will give us a platform from which we can work with our partners at the Council to continue providing cleaner, greener, more efficient services.”