Oxford could become one of the greenest cities in the UK if its bid to limit buses’ nitrogen oxide emissions is approved by the government.
The County Council have applied to the government to set a limit on nitrogen dioxide produced by buses at two grams of nitrogen oxide per kilowatt-hour, the strictest legal cap currently available within the Eurozone.
It is the first time any local authority in Britain has applied for such a strict emissions cap, and it is part of a bid in cooperation with Oxford City Council to turn Oxford into a Low Emissions Zone (LEZ).
Since 2009, investment in more environmentally friendly buses in Oxford has seen an approximate drop of 60 percent in emissions from new vehicles, but many older buses without this reduction remain in use in and around the city. If approved, the regulations mean that buses which do not meet the standard will have to be entirely replaced or fitted with exhaust treatment devices, and any bus remaining stationary for more than one minute at a bus stop would have to have its engine turned off.
In addition, the City Council is looking at making the rules apply to taxis and licensed private hire vehicles as well if they are approved for buses.
A spokesman for the Oxford Bus Company welcomed the news, saying that “over 85 percent” of their buses already comply with Euro 5 regulations and that they “expect the entire fleet to be upgraded to this standard well ahead of any deadline the government may set as a result of the Council’s application”.
He continued: “For between ten and fifteen years now the company has been investing in green technology, and it’s been standard practice to turn off engines at bus stops for a long time now anyway. We have set the template for the LEZ and far from fearing the Council’s application, we welcome it, although we believe it should apply to all vehicles with an internal combustion engine within the LEZ.”
He also pointed out the contributions made to Oxford by the bus operators, saying: “Over 50 percent of all people in the city centre get there by bus. The bus network is therefore an integral part of Oxford’s economy.”
Student reaction was also positive, with St Catz engineer and cyclist Erk Angpanitcharoen commenting: “It will be particularly beneficial for people using the slip stream as they will be able to cycle behind any bus with minimal emission intake.”
The City Council’s cabinet member for transport declined to comment.
OUSU Environment & Ethics Chair Natalie Haley added: “This is a great step in improving air quality in the city; especially as so much of the air pollution in the city centre is due to buses. Hopefully similar caps will be set in other parts of the country following Oxford’s example. Oxford already has many hybrid and other forms of ‘greener’ buses and this would ensure buses which did not already meet these standards were brought up to the bar.”