Glasgow goes green with new Low Emissions Zone

Posted: 18 December 2018 | | No comments yet

Andrew Jarvis, Managing Director for First Glasgow, discusses the initiatives being implemented across Glasgow to fight pollution, reduce congestion and encourage the use of public transport.


First Glasgow has had a busy year improving our offer to customers, as well as preparing for the implementation of the city’s new Low Emissions Zone, the first phase of which comes into effect from 31 December 2018.

We have taken delivery of 75 new ultra-low emission buses and these were launched in early October 2018 initially on our 75 service, but now operate across the 18, 241 and 34 services also.

As well as previous Euro VI deliveries and a small number of retrofitted Euro V vehicles, with help from the Transport Scotland BEAR fund, the 75 new buses, which were built by Scottish-based Alexander Dennis Limited, helped us to meet the phase 1 criteria of 20 per cent of all fleet being Euro VI compliant.

The new vehicles have all been warmly received by our customers and stakeholders alike, and I am delighted that following the significant progress towards establishing the Glasgow Bus Partnership we have now followed this up with another order of 75 new buses for 2019.

By working together with Glasgow City Council and Transport Scotland we can make great strides forward in doing our bit towards improving air quality in Glasgow, but we all need to be mindful that this is not going to be an overnight transition. We can, however, make a significant improvement through a collaborative approach with our partners.

At First Glasgow, we are committed to improving air quality across the city region through investment in new buses and when appropriate funding allows, the retrospective fitting of older Euro IV and V vehicles, to bring them into line with the very latest emission specifications.

We are now awaiting an announcement from Transport Scotland on how much government funding will be made available to support the industry and their customers to improve air quality further across the city as part of the next stage in the process.

First Glasgow is also working in a close partnership with Scottish Power Energy Networks as part of their Green Economy Fund project to help advance the take up of cleaner energy as well as economic growth. The specific project will see the introduction of 20 electric bus chargepoints at our state-of-the-art Caledonia depot along with the provision of two BYD/ADL pure electric buses for route M3, which runs from the city centre to the north.

I have been encouraged by discussions around bus priority measures as part of wider progress surrounding the LEZ, but I’m hopeful more will be done to provide reliable and faster journey times for people using buses, potentially by taking some measures to restrict car movements and car parking in the city centre, encouraging the use of public transport.

Bus priority measures are badly needed to further speed up journey times and make bus services more attractive for the public. The introduction of new technology on our buses such as contactless payments and mTicketing coupled with our new Ticketer machines across all of our vehicles means we now have real-time data on all routes and, in partnership with SPT, at many bus stops across the region – making the bus network more accessible and easy to use.

Our First Bus journey planner app allows people to plan their journeys in advance, so in terms of our responsibility as bus operators, we are taking every step that we can through investments in technology to reduce dwell times at stops.

These advances help us to address many of the issues under our control, but now we need help from politicians, the Scottish government and the local authorities to help us tackle the single biggest factor affecting our services and running costs: congestion.

Congestion is something, as an industry, that we have absolutely no control over, but it is an issue that has got progressively worse as car ownership continues to soar. I believe the bus can be the solution to this problem with one bus having the ability to remove 75 cars from our roads in and around the city, and a potential annual carbon saving of 67,200kg.

The city’s new LEZ is the right direction to go in without question, but it must be restrictive to cars given that they are the single cause of 60 per cent of all road transport greenhouse gas emissions. Especially when you compare that to the less than five per cent figure caused by buses and coaches. We have been at the forefront in delivering the LEZ measures so far, but I believe much more could be achieved if we work in close partnership with Glasgow City Council and the Scottish government to deliver an effective LEZ that will drastically improve pollution.

As long as appropriate funding is made readily available for retrofitting across the country then we are geared up to deliver on the policy for full Euro VI compliance within the five-year LEZ plan for the city. To achieve this will have long term benefits for us all and would be something that everyone could collectively be very satisfied with achieving.