First West of England’s fleet of buses all set for Bath’s Clean Air Zone

Bath’s Clean Air Zone comes into operation on 15th March – and First West of England is geared up and ready with a fleet of buses on the road already compliant with the new legislation.

The local bus operator is aiming to have its entire fleet of buses in the city compliant at Euro 6 standard, with a combination of new-build vehicles and retrofits of new technology to slightly older models.

Euro 6 standard means harmful emissions are reduced by up to 95 percent as compared to the oldest buses that have now been replaced. 

Work on the buses that serve Bath is part of a £30m investment programme across the whole of First West of England’s fleet to ensure that the company is at the forefront of cleaner, greener travel in the region. 

This includes more than £3m worth of Euro 6 buses introduced last Spring in the distinctive new Aquae livery on the heavily-used Bristol to Bath route, services 39 and X39.

Bath’s Clean Air Zone is the first to be introduced outside of London. From 15th March, all non-compliant trucks, vans, coaches and buses (but not private cars and motorcycles) will be charged to drive in Bath’s City Centre. 

First has been working closely with Bath and North East Somerset Council to ensure that it continues to provide customers with a reliable service throughout the city while complying with the new legislation.

This programme has been possible due to Government funding and the technical support for the process has been provided by Energy Saving Trust.

Across the UK, First Bus now has over 1,000 vehicles fitted with new exhaust systems and e-Fans to comply with Euro 6 emission requirements. 

It’s part of its commitment to operating a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035, and a pledge not to purchase any new diesel buses after December 2022.

Investing in retrofitting is vital to ensure the full lifecycle of each vehicle is fully utilised while reducing emissions. This helps support longer term clean air ambitions.

Alongside scheduling challenges to meet the Covid-19 pandemic, First Bus has worked hard to ensure that operations have continued without interruption to customers during the retrofitting programme. 

John Dowie, First Bus Strategy Director, said, “We are committed to doing everything we can to make our buses as environmentally friendly as they can be for the communities we serve. We estimate that each retrofit reduces air pollutants and harmful emissions by up to 95%, and this makes a considerable positive impact to air quality for our towns and cities. Bus services will be a fundamental part of economic recovery as the UK starts to emerge from the pandemic.”

In the past 12 months First Bus has introduced several new bus models powered by diesel alternatives to their UK fleet. These include hydrogen-powered, electric and (locally in Bristol) bio-methane powered buses. 

Councillor Joanna Wright, Bath and North East Somerset Joint Cabinet Member for Transport Services, says, “We are pleased with the commitment First West of England has shown in ensuring it is complaint ahead of the 15 March. We can all do something to improve air quality in the city.

“While charges in the zone only apply to commercial and larger vehicles, we’re appealing to everyone to change their travel habits, particularly when Covid restrictions hopefully lift later in the year as people are vaccinated and the pressure on the NHS reduces.

“That could be using the park and ride, taking the bus, or walking or cycling more – particularly on the school run and for shorter trips across the city. To reduce the harmful levels of NO2 in Bath, we’re asking everyone to do their bit.”

How First Bus is becoming greener

  • Across the UK First Bus has retrofitted 492 single decker and 508 double decker buses throughout their network and the retrofitting programme will continue throughout 2021
  • Approximately 20% of First Bus’ active fleet has undergone retrofit and further upgrades are planned
  • The retrofitting programme has been delivered by Eminox and HJS, with Grayson fitting the e-Fans
  • The E-Drive (electric fan (E-fan) cooling system) is designed to work only when required, lowering running costs, and environmental impact. The unique configuration ensures that energy is not wasted and fuel savings of up to 10% can be achieved.
  • Retrofitting reduces emissions of NOx and e-Fans ensure that this doesn’t increase carbon emissions

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