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Cleaning up bus emissions in Scotland

Scotland is taking concerted action on air pollution – and Energy Saving Trust Scotland is playing its part by administering a £1.6million Scottish Government scheme to install low-emissions upgrades on existing buses.

Bus operators with routes in the country’s key areas for monitoring air pollution can now apply for up to £25,000 per vehicle through the Bus Emissions Abatement Retrofit (BEAR) programme. The programme specifically targets those vehicles operating in Scotland’s towns and cities with recognised air quality issues.

Lothian bus going to Lochend parked in the street

Helping bus companies make the cut

The Scottish Government recently announced Glasgow as the first of the four to be establishing its LEZ. The aim is to have it in place by the end of this year.

Matthew Eastwood, Energy Saving Trust Head of Transport – Scotland, said: “Public transport clearly has a big role to play in making Low Emissions Zones a success. But buses have long lives on the road, and while vehicles which are now 8 or 9 years old complied with the emissions standards in force at the time of their manufacture, things have changed.

“This is about helping operators comply with today’s emission standards without the need for huge investment in replacement vehicles. We’re looking to engage with the industry and get their support, making sure this is not seen as a ‘top down’ initiative and making it clear they’re part of a solution, not a problem. For that very reason, we are running a stakeholder event in Glasgow on the 15th February”

Technologies for cleaner routes

The word ‘retrofit’ is perhaps more associated with making homes more energy efficient than reducing the harmfulness of what comes out of exhausts, but there’s plenty you can do to make older vehicles produce less pollutants.

The technologies on offer as part of this scheme are Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) units that cause NOx to react with ammonia and reduce it to nitrogen and water, and Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF) that cut particulate matter emissions.

Air pollution a high priority

Despite Scotland’s reputation for picturesque countryside and fresh air, Friends of the Earth earlier this year warned that air pollution in the country was a “public health crisis”.

A total of £16million investment is being put into bringing low emissions buses onto Scottish roads. Retrofitting emissions-reduction technology onto older vehicles is just the start of a roll-out of measures that should help in tackling Scotland’s air pollution hot-spots.

Eastwood added: “Low Emissions Zones will mean people walking, cycling and using public transport more and this funding programme very much compliments on going Scottish Government action to manage air pollution in Scotland’s towns and cities.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.