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3rd March 2019
A special fund set up by the Scottish Government to pay for improvements to buses to reduce air pollution is going unspent, with no major bus company applying since the fund opened last October. The scandal was revealed in The Ferret/ Sunday National today. The fund, which closes on Friday 8th March is worth £7.89 million was set up to help deliver the new Low Emission Zone in Glasgow and is open to bus companies.
Bus operators are supposed to apply to the fund for money to pay for replacement exhaust systems to be fitted to older buses, bringing emissions up to modern standards. Bus companies had complained about the costs of upgrading their fleet to meet air quality standards in new Low Emission Zones. The total funding would upgrade about 450 buses.
Friends of the Earth Scotland Air Pollution Campaigner Gavin Thomson said:
“This is a disgrace. Glasgow’s major bus companies are clearly more interested in profit than in saving lives. Public money has been available for 5 months to improve air quality on our streets, but it’s not being used. Companies seem happy to profit from older buses that continue to belch out toxic fumes on our streets. Because of their inaction, there’s been no improvement to air quality, and no change to the huge health impacts suffered from air pollution.
“This ‘idling’ from the bus companies means there has been 5 months of preventable emissions from buses, of higher levels of pollution than there should be, of more children with asthma, more strokes and heart attacks.
“The £7.89 million would retrofit 450 buses. The Scottish Government has made this huge pot of cash available but the big bus companies seem uninterested in using it to clean up their fleet.
“Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone has already launched, but it gives bus companies years to get their dirty old vehicles off the streets. The Council need to push every bus company that operates in the city to upgrade their fleet. This is a public health issue and isn’t being treated seriously. We need cleaner air now, the money is there, the bus companies are sitting on their hands”.
“The real fear is that the money that has been made available will not be rolled-over or go into another fund. Bus companies need to use this money now to clean up their fleet and improve air quality in Scotland’s cities”.
Get Glasgow Moving campaigner Ellie Harrison said:
“This is outrageous behaviour from private bus companies. It’s disgusting that they would delay improving their vehicles, even though the taxpayer is paying for it!
“Unfortunately, this sort of irresponsible behaviour is what we’d expect from an industry that changes routes, hikes up fares, and cuts off working-class communities without any notice. This irresponsible behaviour from bus operators has to stop. Hopefully, the Scottish Government and MSPs will see we need greater transparency of the industry and an option for public ownership of buses.”
Notes to Editors