Scottish bus firms accused of ‘putting profits before lives’ as fund goes unspent

Of the £7.89m Scottish Government fund to help bus operators retrofit their diesel bus fleet, only £1m was spent, according to figures released by Friends of the Earth Scotland.

The money was made available by the Scottish Government as part of the Bus Emissions Abatement Retrofitting Programme and would pay companies to retrofit buses with new exhaust systems, allowing older buses can be brought up to modern standards.

Applications for funding opened in October 2018 and closed on March 9 2019.

Friends of the Earth Scotland claim that if all the money had been spent, around 450 buses could have been cleaned up but only 84 buses will now be retrofitted.

First Bus, the largest bus operator in Glasgow, told AirQualityNews last month that they had concerns over the viability of the scheme given comparative retrofit schemes in England and Germany, and said they would not apply for funding until the Scottish Government provides 100% of the money it would cost to retrofit their affected vehicles (they are currently offering 40% of the cost through the fund).

Andrew Jarvis, managing director, First Bus said: ‘The uncertainty and gap in funding has undoubtedly impacted on our retrofit programme. If we have to pay the difference between the 40% of Bear 2 and 100% of the actual cost, our only choice is for customers to pay for them as part of the prices they pay.

However, Gavin Thompson, clean air campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland said the bus companies are ‘failing to grasp’ the problem of air pollution.

‘They are seemingly happy to wait another year and use public health as a bargaining chip as they demand more money from the Scottish Government,’ he said.

‘We need big ideas and ambition to expand our bus network, but to start with, we need our bus operators to put people’s lives before their own profits.’

Scotland’s first low-emission zone (LEZ) came into effect in Glasgow on Monday December 31.

The first phase of Glasgow’s LEZ will mean 20% of all buses that pass through the city must now meet emissions standards that comply with EU standards.