Answers to Questions: Impact of Clean Air Zone on Subsidised Buses

by timpickstone on 22 April, 2019

Greater Manchester Councils recently submitted an outline case to Government for a ‘Clean Air’ charging zone for Greater Manchester which would charge buses, lorries, vans and taxis for driving on Greater Mancheter’s roads from 2021. (£100 a day for buses and lorries, £7.50 a day for taxis and vans.) One of our big concerns is the impact of the charge on buses, and bus users. Done badly the charges could increase pollution if bus companies run less services or put up fares to pay the charge.

At the most recent Full Council meeting of Bury Council, Liberal Democrat Councillor Tim Pickstone took the opportunity to put this in a formal question to the Council’s spokesperson on the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee:

Question: Could the Council’s representative to the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee inform members how many buses are used each day to provide subsidised bus services in Greater Manchester? How many of these buses currently meet the emissions standards set by the proposed Clean Air Zones?

Answer: TfGM does not have an exact figure as TfGM procures services and it is up to the operators how they resource them. In terms of the overall Greater Manchester bus fleet, as at Autumn 2018 approximately 90% of buses operating in GM (including those on cross-boundary services) do not comply with the standards that are being set within the draft Clean Air Zone proposal in that they are either Euro V or older. However, an important component of the Clean Air Plan Outline Business Case (OBC) is a Clean Bus Fund. This is intended to provide support to retrofit the majority of existing Euro IV and V buses with flexibility for the move to an EV bus network, via financial assistance towards charging infrastructure, prioritised on Air Quality benefits and commercial contribution. Greater Manchester has also set out an expectation from government for an action to support the replacement of non- compliant buses.

We’re pretty amazed that T4GM doesn’t seem to have done it’s sums on this. Local Councils in Greater Manchester are spending about £28 million a year on subsidised bus services. If there were 100 buses providing subsidised services every day then that would be a charge of over £7 million a year – presumably meaning that 1/4 of services would have to be cut.

The Clean Bus Fund (which is proposed as £28 million) would pay for SOME buses to be ‘retrofitted (ie a new cleaner engine put in), but that would only be 1,200 of the 2,000 non-compliant buses in Greater Manchester – even it it were possible to retrofit half of those in the next two years (which is a massive undertaking!)

It is important we reduce air pollution, but it is important that by adopting a charging proposal, we don’t just pass the impact onto bus passengers. Let us know your views.

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