Since 2018, EPS has coordinated Clean Air Day in Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Government and working with another charity, Global Action Plan.
The annual air quality campaign aims to encourage people to leave the car at home and encourage use of sustainable transport such as buses and to walk/cycle quieter, less polluted side streets
On Clean Air Day, 17th June 2021, over 80 organisations, including dozens of schools from the Highlands to South Ayrshire, participated in activities and a further 500 Scottish supporters signed up to the Clean Air Day Scotland toolkits.
We are giving away Clean Air Day drawstring bags to the best five bus themed-travel pledges received by the end of this week.
You can log on and download a PDF of a pledge card from the ‘Communities’ section of the resources – https://www.cleanairday.org.uk/scotland
Write your bus travel pledge and the email your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org – mark in the subject header LOVE MY BUS/CLEAN AIR DAY COMPETITION and include your name and address.
On a rainy December day just before Christmas 2018, I attended the launch at Glasgow’s Buchanan bus station of the city’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ).
With a range of the latest state-of-the-art LEZ-compliant buses as the backdrop for a photocall, the umbrellas were already by the time VIP guests, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure Michael Matheson MSP and Glasgow City Council’s Sustainability and Carbon Reduction Convenor, Councillor Anna Richardson, arrived for the photo-call.
Despite the typically dreich Scottish winter weather, the event heralded a new dawn for bus travel in Scotland’s bus operators drive towards delivering cleaner, better quality bus fleets and meeting emissions targets.
LEZ’s are set to drive forward dramatic emissions improvements to bus fleets in Scotland’s four main cities. With Glasgow’s LEZ already in place and targeting bus emissions, Edinburgh and Dundee city councils announced plans for consultations on their proposals in the run up to Clean Air Day 2021. Aberdeen, the other city involved in the Scottish Government initiative announced in 2017, will share their plans in the next few weeks.
Improving the bus fleets to the cleanest most efficient Euro VI engine standards or better through electric, hydrogen and the use of stop-start technology reduces NOx from diesel engines. Tens of millions of pounds has been spent improving and upgrading the bus fleets thanks to support from Transport Scotland’s Bus Emissions Abatement Retrofit (BEAR) scheme and bus operators have been at the forefront of new vehicles.
Technology is also being used to speed up bus services. In September 2019, Glasgow City Council introduced two ‘bus gates’ in Oswald Street and Union Street mainly to free up space for buses. Gone are the days when bus drivers had to jostle with motorists to park at their bus stop in Glasgow.
Motorists, excluding taxi drivers, are deterred from driving into the two streets at peak times of the day by fixed penalty notices via Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.
Bus companies are falling over themselves to introduce brand new Euro VI compliant models and despite the short-term advantages of retro-fitting, older models are being phased out more quickly.
With high speed broadband wi-fi, air conditioning, free newspapers and plush seats, the only thing missing for today’s bus passengers on suburban routes is free coffee!
The bus revolution is taking place in rural areas too. In the run up to Clean Air Day 2019, Moray Council and Highland and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) launched the m-connect service which provides an electric bus linking communities which cuts emissions by 70 per cent and aims to reduce car congestion.
The hydrogen revolution taking place in Aberdeen is another example of the pioneering spirit of the bus industry. The first double-decker bus powered by hydrogen hit the streets of the Granite City at the start of 2021 and bus companies are upscaling their investment in charging infrastructure at main depots as part of the shift to full electric.
In April, The Guardian reported that records of requests to the ‘Apple Map’ service for directions to bus services and shows the number of trips taken on UK roads and public transport had increased to the highest level since summer 2020 in the last month.
As lockdown restrictions eases there is an expectation that use of public transport will rapidly rise and, when it is safe to do so, the government should fund a national campaign to encourage people back onto buses and ‘lock-in’ some of the ‘lock down’ air quality improvements qualities witnessed due to the massive falls in private vehicle usage during the restrictions.
At the Waterfront Air Quality Forum webinar in May, I asked guest speaker Vincent McInally, the Air Quality and Environment Manager at Transport Scotland, whether there should be a national, government funded campaign to get people back on buses post-pandemic.
Mr McInally replied that messaging was required, in consultation with public health officials, to ensure the risks are minimised, but added: “Clearly, public transport, sustainable transport is the answer to a lot of our problems around congestion and air quality within the cities and that is clearly part of the message going forward, but we need to do that in consultation with our colleagues in public health to ensure the correct steps and precautions are being taken by the public transport operators to ensure the risks are minimised.”
Despite Mr McInally’s caution, the government appears to be fully prepared to back a shift back onto public transport once the circumstances are right.
Bus use goes hand in hand with cycling and walking and joined up thinking will allow people to hire a bike after hopping on a bus into city centres such as Nextbike in Glasgow and Just Eat Cycles in Edinburgh.
Getting people back onto buses post-pandemic will play a huge role in Scotland achieving its net-zero targets by 2045, and getting our lives back to normal after lockdown.