By Alex Worrall
WEST YORKSHIRE’S three largest bus operators have announced that they have spent £23.5m on more than 100 low emission buses to improve air quality in the region – but councillors still say it is nowhere near enough.
A partnership called Bus 18 was launched in March this year to make bus travel a popular option for residents of West Yorkshire, as well as improving customer service.
It involves transport companies Arriva Yorkshire, First West Yorkshire and Transdev Blazefield, which joined forces with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
First West Yorkshire has committed to investing in 284 low emission buses by 2020.
Paul Matthews, managing director at First Leeds, said: “We understand the vital role we play in finding solutions to reduce air pollution across West Yorkshire.
“The new buses will be fitted with Euro VI engines which produce over 90 per cent less harmful pollutants than the vehicles they will be replacing.”
But Coun Keith Wakefield, WYCA transport chair, said more needs to be done: “This partnership has been around for several years and we are just seeing the tangible results.
“We are talking and they are listening but we have to do more before we can call this project a success.
“This is only the start of our plans…we are nowhere near where we want to be.”
The Leeds Green Party said it ‘welcomes these encouraging steps towards investing in cleaner green technology’.
A spokesman added: “The Green Party will continue to campaign for lower emissions and a complete transformation of the entire bus fleet to the latest engine technology.
“We are pleased by money being put into improving live communications as this is a big frustration for passengers.
“The Green Party in Leeds is working on a comprehensive long-term vision for the Leeds city region encompassing all forms of transportation.”
And Coun Andrew Cooper, Green Party leader for Kirklees, said: “All progress is welcome but we need a plan in place to ensure that all vehicles change to low emission buses rather than a select few.
“We want more electric buses and we want more hydrogen-fuelled buses.
“Using eco-friendly transport not only boosts health but it’s also good for the planet as we reduce our carbon footprint.”
Ray Wilkes, co-founder of West and North Yorkshire Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The new low emission initiative is great.
“Rush hour buses could have 50 people on them whereas the average car carries only one and our buses are cleaner than a diesel car.”
The scheme has also seen the approval of £1m worth of funding to work on easing congestion at 28 bus hotspots.
Mr Wilkes added: “We want bus priority as buses stuck in traffic are very unappealing.
“If we combat this then we are sure that passengers would see the benefit of ditching the car.
“We are also creating better shelters and facilities.”
Bus 18 is currently making improvements to information displays across 14,000 bus stops.
The partnership launched a free journey guarantee for any customer not happy with their bus ride and a refund for a taxi if the last bus of the night fails to show up within 20 minutes of the scheduled time.
Coun Wakefield added: “Reliability is the most important thing for bus passengers and we will ensure that there is greater transparency about the service performance to help build public confidence.
“Good transport underpins economic growth, investment and job creation and buses are a vital part of our network.”