£3.3m fund to help tackle air pollution announced

A £3.3m project to improve air quality by cutting harmful emissions from buses has today been given the green light.

The scheme will see 191 buses operating on 20 routes in Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside fitted with new engine technology which significantly reduces levels of pollutants.

It means both passengers, other road users and communities along the affected routes will benefit from cleaner air.

Funding for the project was announced this morning at the UK Bus Summit in London.

Speaking at the summit, Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani said: “Buses and coaches are hugely important to those who rely on them and to the communities in which these people live and work.

“Road transport is going to change dramatically over the next couple of decades – and we have to make sure that the bus industry is ready to benefit from those changes.

“We have to move away from nose-to-tail car traffic at peak times, endless engine idling, stop-start travel and rising pollution and carbon emissions. Rather than contributing to the problem – buses and coaches very much form part of the solution.”

Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils all submitted bids for a share of the Clean Bus Technology Fund.

The three authorities were among 29 identified by the Government as needing to address excessive levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide on certain roads, including a section of the A1058 Coast Road, the Tyne Bridge and part of Central Motorway.

The Government has required those council to address the issues “in the shortest possible time” and Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils have already agreed to work together on the solution.

Fitting buses with new technology to reduce the levels of harmful emissions they produce is one of the ways in which the problem can be tackled as many of the routes included are on or close to the roads identified by the Government.

Cllr Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality at Newcastle City Council, said: “Poor air quality has a serious impact on our environment, our health and our economy.

“Reducing congestion on our roads – a major cause of pollution – by changing the way we travel and swapping some of our car journeys for public transport, is one of the ways in which we can all make a difference.

“This funding means that as well as encouraging people to travel by bus instead of by car, we can also ensure that the buses which are operating on our roads are cleaner vehicles.”

Councillor John Stirling, cabinet member for the environment at North Tyneside Council, said: “I welcome this funding and thank our neighbouring authorities for their support in bidding for the funds. Cleaner technology on buses is absolutely vital if we are serious about improving the air quality in our towns and cities.

“As a council, we are working hard to meet the challenge of the UK Air Quality Directive in achieving the government’s emissions target by 2021.”

The buses which will benefit from the funding are operated by Stagecoach, Go North East and Arriva North East. The bus companies will be able to use the money to buy the new technology to be fitted to their vehicles over the next 12 months.