Cleaner air the target as plan to expand low-emission buses in the West Midlands is launched

A blueprint to get more pollution-busting green technology buses on the roads of the West Midlands has been unveiled by transport bosses.

The West Midlands Low Emission Bus Delivery Plan sets out a route to boosting numbers of clean buses and improving air quality across the region.

It has been produced by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), and consultants Element Energy.

Laura Shoaf, left, Steve Hayes, TfWM network development and delivery manager, Cllr Bob Sleigh and Celine Cluzel of Element Energy.
Laura Shoaf, left, Steve Hayes, TfWM network development and delivery manager, Cllr Bob Sleigh and Celine Cluzel of Element Energy.

The study outlines a delivery plan for putting in place by 2035 a fleet of hybrid, electric, gas and hydrogen-powered buses and refuelling infrastructure – a move which would result in less than 10% of today’s emissions.

Cllr Bob Sleigh, the chairman of WMCA, said improving the health and quality of life of people living in the region was part of its plans to transform the economy.

“To do this urban air quality must be improved and having a high-quality, attractive bus network is integral to that,” he said.

“We can do that by transforming our bus fleets and reducing emissions and delivery of this plan is a key part of that.”

The West Midlands, along with other major conurbations around the UK, has been identified as having some of the most polluted air in the country.

The government has identified tackling air pollution as one of its priorities and on Monday (July 25) announced the award of more than £5 million to Birmingham City Council and National Express West Midlands (NXWM) for bus schemes.

NXWM, which operates 90% of bus services in the region, received more than £3 million to fund 10 hybrid and 19 fully electric buses and to install charging facilities.

Birmingham City Council was awarded £2.5 million for 22 state-of-the-art hydrogen fuel cell buses.

Laura Shoaf, managing director of TfWM, said the work of the pioneering Bus Alliance had played a part in the awards and would be key in delivery of the plan.

The Alliance, the first of its kind in the country, brings together bus operators, councils, and other partners to work together to drive up standards in vehicles, performance and pollution levels.

“We now have more than 50 hybrid and electric buses in the West Midlands but know we still have big challenges around air quality which is why we have developed this plan,” she said.

“We welcome the investment the government has made in over £5m to support our ambitions. We will continue to seek additional investment and to do more to ensure everybody living and working here in the West Midlands has clean air to breathe.”

Celine Cluzel, associate director of Element Energy, said the plan had been a fascinating study to produce.

“We worked strongly with TfWM and the result is a very solid plan, ambitious yet realistic,” she said.

“The government has indicated the way forward with the money it has just awarded and the plan cements that.”