More than 400 buses in Birmingham and Coventry are to be fitted with pollution busting technology thanks to grants totalling £4.5 million.
West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has been awarded the money by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Clean Bus Technology Fund to retrofit buses with kits that tackle exhaust emissions.
The WMCA received funding for £3 million in Birmingham. This will be matched by £2,920,200 from four bus operators – National Express West Midlands, Diamond, Claribels and First – to install kits on 364 vehicles.
These will be buses running in Birmingham city centre, more than half of which then travel on routes to the Black Country.
Coventry City Council receives £1.5 million under the scheme following its application for funding, with the WMCA as a partner.
This will involve one operator, National Express Coventry, and look to retrofit 104 buses with a £240,500 match-funding contribution by the company.
Cllr Roger Lawrence, lead member for transport on the WMCA, said: “This is fantastic news and a very welcome addition to the bus fleet of the West Midlands.
“Reducing bus engine emissions is key in tackling the hugely important issue of air quality in city centres.
“It is also a priority of the West Midlands Bus Alliance, which is working hard to raise standards across the region.”
Councillor Stewart Stacey, Cabinet Member for Transport and Roads, at Birmingham City Council said: “Public transport plays a key role in encouraging people to leave their cars at home and use alternative methods to get around, which helps tackle congestion and the impact of vehicle emissions on our city.
“It’s great news that, in addition to the 20 new super clean hydrogen-fuelled buses we announced late last year, four operators will be retrofitting emission-reducing kits to more than 360 buses serving the city centre, demonstrating their commitment to helping improve air quality for Birmingham’s citizens.”
Cllr Kamran Caan, Cabinet member for Public Health and Sport, at Coventry City Council, said: “As a city we want to improve air quality in Coventry, and we welcome the funding.
“The Council is taking the problem of air pollution very seriously and looking at a range of ways to reduce the impact we know it is having on the health of our communities.
“We are also really keen to urge residents to do what they can to be more environmentally friendly, by leaving the car at home, even just for one day a week, and thinking about car sharing, or doing part of their journeys differently.
"We are already working with the Joint Air Quality Unit - and reducing emissions from buses will be a step in the right direction.”
The technology works by capturing harmful particulates and nitrogen dioxide gases from the vehicle’s engine.
It takes a team of two engineers around six hours to fit a filter and a selective catalytic reduction “trap” to each bus.
Once installed, harmful emissions coming out of the exhaust are reduced by as much as 96%, making the air coming out of the exhaust cleaner than the air in the city outside.
The same scheme has seen £1.5 million awarded to Coventry City Council, which worked in partnership with the WMCA to make its application.
This will see kits being fitted to 104 National Express Coventry buses – the majority of the firm’s 150-strong fleet - with £240,500 being put in by the firm.
There were 20 successful authorities around the UK who applied for funding, with the WMCA awarded the most and committing to retrofit the highest number of vehicles of all outside of London.
The West Midlands Bus Alliance, the first of its kind in the UK, brings together bus operators, local councils, and other partners to work together to deliver high levels of passenger satisfaction and drive forward investment in our bus services.
Click here to see a video of a filter kit being installed by engineers from National Express West Midlands.