Sustainable transport campaign group Greener Journeys and a leading transport expert have warned local authorities against banning the use of â€˜cleanâ€™ diesel buses in clean air zones across the UK.
The group has claimed that implementing a blanket ban on all diesel vehicles â€“ in particular buses â€“ could have â€œdisastrousâ€ consequences for the environment, economy and society.
Greener Journeys has today launched a campaign to highlight the environmental and social â€˜benefitsâ€™ of Euro VI buses, and calling for local authorities to focus efforts on retrofitting older buses to the latest emissions standard.
The comments have been backed by the transport expert Professor David Begg, visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth and the former chairman of the governmentâ€™s Commission for Integrated Transport.
According to Greener Journeys, a number of local authorities are currently considering proposals to improve air quality in areas with high levels of pollution, in particular nitrogen oxides (NOx) which are linked to vehicle emissions.
These include Oxford city council, which has unveiled plans for the UKâ€™s first zero emission zone â€“ which would see a ban on petrol and diesel vehicles phased in across the entire city centre by 2035.
However, Professor Begg has claimed that claimed that local authorities should not seek to implement blanket bans on diesel vehicles, and instead target older diesel cars.
He warned that banning all diesel vehicles from city centres would â€œdemonise and penaliseâ€ the latest generation of clean diesel buses.
Professor Begg said that banning diesel buses could lead to a cut in bus services, which could have potential consequences for adult skills, employment and social deprivation.
He said: â€œWhile local government rightly try to take dirty diesel vehicles off the streets, there is a danger they will demonise and penalise a new generation of independently-tested clean diesel buses that are in fact part of the solution, not the problem, to excessive air pollution.
â€œWe must be aware of unintended consequences of waging war on diesel, and avoid tarring these incredibly clean buses with the same brush as the toxic car fleet on our roads today. Instead, we need to tackle the older diesel cars and vans that are clogging up our streets. If buses are viewed as the problem, and not integral to the solution, then the unintended consequence will be more polluting cars on the road and poorer air quality.â€
According to Greener Journeys, real-world testing of bus engines shows that the latest generation of clean buses emit 95% fewer NOx emissions than previous generations.
These buses emit fewer emissions overall than the average diesel Euro 6 car despite having 15 to 20 times the capacity, the group has claimed.
Claire Haigh, chief executive of Greener Journeys, said: â€œBritainâ€™s streets are clogged with high polluting diesel cars which are causing a public health emergency and costing tens of thousands of lives each year.
â€œIf local authorities are serious about tackling air pollution, they must put this new generation of clean British diesel buses, and buses retrofitted to the same low-emission standard, front and centre of their plans.
â€œNot only are the latest diesel buses cleaner than diesel cars, but taking cars off the road would also help reduce congestion as a fully loaded double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road. Furthermore, putting buses at the centre of the air quality strategy would support UK manufacturing as at least 80% of urban buses sold in the UK are built in the UK, compared with just 13% of new cars.â€
Bus manufacturers and transport operators including Alexander Dennis (ADL), Arriva, Baumot UK, Cummins, First, Go-Ahead, Greener Journeys, Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, National Express, Optare, Stagecoach, Trent Barton and Wrights have endorsed the campaign.