First Bus get on board with clean air initiatives as fleet receives green makeover

Fleet across Southampton is most eco-friendly yet

First Southampton interim managing director Simon Goff, Councillor Jacqui Rayment and Councillor Steven Leggett

First Bus is well on its way to delivering its most eco-friendly fleet of buses yet across Southampton. In early 2018, in partnership with four bus companies, Southampton City Council successfully secured £2.7 million from the Government’s Clean Bus Technology Fund to retrofit buses and reduce harmful emissions in the city.

Since then, City Reds has been working hard to upgrade 49 of its Southampton vehicles with innovative selective catalytic reduction technology and bring its fleet to the Euro 6 standard for vehicle emissions - which almost completely removes Nitrogen Dioxides emissions. The retrofit programme is set for completion by May, with Go South Coast, Xelabus and Wheelers set to follow later in the year.

First Southampton interim managing director Simon Goff said:

“We are completely committed to supporting the cleaner air strategy in Southampton and are delighted to have the opportunity to retrofit our vehicles through this government funding. With the latest green exhaust system technology, we will be able to reduce emissions significantly. Greener buses mean cleaner town and city centres and a healthier environment for everyone.

He added: “We are also constantly working to make bus transport more attractive, by introducing new and easy ways to plan and pay for your bus journey, such as our journey planning and mTicketing apps on your smartphone or payment by contactless. This helps speed up journeys and we are also constantly working with Southampton City Council to improve bus priority in the city to help encourage people to switch to the bus.”

Public transport offers a viable solution to single occupancy car journeys and the associated challenge of air pollution. Local bus operators recognise the major role they have to play and have made a concerted effort to enhance the city’s bus travel experience and provide a clean, affordable and quality alternative to travelling by car.

In August of last year, Go South Coast’s Unilink service welcomed 32 new Euro 6 double deckers offering an increased level of comfort and on board technology. In November 2018, the group’s Bluestar brand also invested in 19 new Euro 6 double decker buses for its number 18 service and another for the QuayConnect service between Town Quay and Central Station. Meanwhile the brand has also been promoting its ‘Bluestar Promise’ to inspire people to swap one car journey a week with a journey by bus instead, while also looking ahead to its retrofit programme later this year.

These collaborative strides have ensured that bus travel in Southampton is a greener, more attractive proposition than ever before and have placed the city at the forefront of bus travel growth in the UK, with numbers bucking national trends. Bus travel has increased by 17% since 2011, with over 21 million bus journeys made each year in the city.

Councillor Jacqui Rayment, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Transport and Public Realm, says:

“Bus travel plays a key role in improving Southampton’s transport connections and providing a better, more reliable and now more environmentally friendly option in terms of how we can travel in and around our city.

I look forward to seeing these developments inspire even more people to travel by bus and do their bit to improve congestion and reduce air pollution.”

Councillor Steven Leggett, Cabinet Member for Green City, says:

“I’m delighted to see First Bus demonstrating its commitment to improving air quality and encouraging people to travel in around our city more sustainably and in greater comfort than ever before.

“I would like to congratulate First Bus on the excellent progress already made and look forward to seeing other bus operators follow suit later in the year. Well done!”