In towns and cities across the UK air pollution has decreased since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown as traffic congestion has eased.
When lockdown ends, Unite and the UK’s largest bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis (ADL), which employs 2,500 staff at sites in Guildford, Scarborough and Falkirk and supports 12,500 more in the supply chain, want to help the UK’s built up areas stay that way.
To help the country towards cleaner towns and cities, ADL today (Tuesday 19 May), with the backing of Unite, announced plans for the manufacture of at least 10,000 new UK-built low and ultra low buses within the next four years.
Unite said it ‘fully supports’ ADL’s plan and seconded the firm’s call for the plans to be set into motion by being included within the government’s £5bn fund for bus services and cycle routes that ministers announced in February.
“There is strong public support for locking in these benefits through and beyond the post- coronavirus recovery to keep a healthier environment and continue the fight against climate change,” said ADL chief executive Colin Robertson.
“Along with active travel and other modes of public transport, buses are a crucial part of the solution. As a society, we need to act immediately and deliver benefits as quickly as possible to minimise the deterioration of air quality when the economy restarts.”
ADL says that brand new low and ultra low emission buses could be ready before the end of the year to take older buses with ageing diesel engines off the streets or to offer additional capacity to facilitate social distancing.
These ultra low emission buses could bring self-charged zero emission electric range capability – completely cutting out emissions on high streets, near schools or at hospitals – without losing time to infrastructure planning and installation.
The firm said that work could begin in parallel to plan and develop the infrastructure for zero emission buses, with battery electric buses available in volume supported by ADL’s expertise in rolling out fleets.
ADL also said hydrogen buses will play a role for routes requiring additional range and they will be ready when a fuelling infrastructure and a sustainable supply of green hydrogen have been put in place.
“The realisation of our proposals can begin immediately, and they could be scaled up in size and ambition to match councils’ and governments’ decarbonisation targets. We are ready to deliver for the nation,” said Robertson.
“The UK Government’s earlier £5bn pledge for buses and cycling recognises the need to invest in active and sustainable models of travel. This is now more imperative than ever as the economy emerges from the impact of coronavirus.”
Unite national officer for automotive Steve Bush said the union ‘fully supports’ ADL’s plan and is working with the company to help ensure it is realised.
“ADL’s vision would help to cut the often devastating health impacts of air pollution on people living and working in the UK’s built up areas as well as reducing the nation’s carbon footprint,” said Bush.
“In addition to bringing a net benefit to public health and our environment, ADL’s plan is exactly what’s needed to help kickstart the economy in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis and would support thousands of jobs in communities across the UK.
“It is crucial that the government gets behind ADL and includes the plan within the £5 billion funding pot for buses and cycles routes announced in February.”