If the Scottish Government’s recent announcement of £500m of support for bus priority measures is not a signal of a step change in the thinking of politicians, then the reception of the world’s leaders in Glasgow for the UN’s COP26 Climate Change summit next year certainly will be.

It is great to see bus finally being considered as a viable and sustainable solution to the current climate change emergency and at First Bus we are determined to play our part in driving change.

As an industry we have a responsibility to educate and inform the elected representatives in our local communities about the importance of seizing the opportunity presented to us by the First Minister’s Programme for Government commitments.

As a business, one of our main goals is to make bus part of the solution when it comes to improving air quality in the city. Cars are one of the biggest polluters with over 60% of the city’s emissions coming from cars. We are keen to work in close partnership with Glasgow City Council in delivering this Low Emissions Zone and we have been at the forefront to deliver the first two phases of the programme.

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First Glasgow have invested over £31 million in the last two years with the introduction of 150 brand new euro VI ultra-low emission vehicles for Greater Glasgow to speed up the switch to low emission vehicles in support of Scotland’s first LEZ in Glasgow city centre.

HeraldScotland:

First Glasgow are on track to be 40% compliant with the city’s Low Emission Zone criteria by December 31st, 2019. This has been achieved by a combination of our new vehicle investment roll out and the more limited retrofitting of Euro 5 vehicles to get them up to Euro 6 standard.  First Glasgow acknowledge that it has a massive role to play to help deliver the full potential of public transport in Greater Glasgow.

Bus priority lanes support the LEZ, but more needs to be done to reduce the free access by car to many highly congested parts of the city centre. Car parking in the city needs to be re-planned and moved away from the core of the city centre in order to help the attractiveness of the built environment. Active travel and public transport have to be prioritised to deliver on the critical place making agenda of the city.

To deliver a public transport system the city can be proud of, the key radial routes of the city must have a much greater level of priority for public transport users to build in the reliability of journey time such measures deliver, along with improvements to the current sub 10mph average speeds that people currently endure. Enforcement of the existing bus priority measures are also badly needed to speed up journey times and make bus services more attractive to people.

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By working together with GCC and Transport Scotland we can make great strides forward in improving air quality not only in Glasgow, but all of the areas we operate. We are committed to improving air quality through investment in new buses and the retro fitting of mid-life (2014 and older) vehicles, to bring them into line with the specification of compliance. 

First Glasgow will also take delivery in the coming months of two all-electric BYD/ADL buses and will become the first operator to roll out these vehicles on commercial routes in Glasgow.

The electric buses are in partnership with Scottish Power Energy Networks and the same project deal sees the Glasgow Caledonia Depot being fitted with 22 EV charging points which starts to future proof the depot and means this technology can now be considered at the next round of new vehicle purchasing.

First Glasgow have now pledged that for every service support vehicle (small vans and people carriers) which come to the end of their current lease, we will replace these with an all-electric vehicle providing practical to do so. The first four of these have now been delivered with suitable EV charging points also being installed.

Electric it seems is winning the battle to be the alternative fuel source of choice going forward, but as a responsible operator, we have a clear duty to explore all possible options and to take the necessary steps to future proofing our business.

For more information please visit www.firstgroup.com