Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone: why one company is so keen to go green

A bus and coach hire company has spoken about its support for making its fleet of vehicles more environmentally-friendly.

The Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone is set to be launched next year - and one company in the city-region is determined to be ready for it.

Belle Vue Manchester, a bus and coach hire firm based in Stockport, was quick out of the blocks when it realised it needed to make its fleet of vehicles greener.

It was one of the first to get its request for funding to retrofit the buses and coaches in to regional transport bosses, and has now been made an offer.

The firm spoke about why it moved immediately to ensure its vehicles will comply with the requirements of the Clean Air Zone.

What is the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone?

The Clean Air Zone is a large-scale scheme to reduce air pollution across the city-region and it is something the authorities here have been directed to set up by the Government.

It is due to launch next May and covers the road network with the exception of the motorways and trunk roads looked after by Highways England.

Vans, buses, coaches, taxis and lorries will have to pay a daily charge if they fail to meet emission standards.

The aim is to lower the amount of pollution coming out of the exhausts of large commercial vehicles.

It is a major part of Greater Manchester’s efforts to become carbon neutral by 2038.

What support is available?

Over £120m in Government funding has been secured to help operators upgrade to cleaner, compliant vehicles so they can travel in the Greater Manchester-wide zone without incurring the daily charge.

A number of business groups have worried that this figure is not going to be nearly enough to convert all the vehicles that will otherwise be racking up charges from May 2022.

However, that did not deter Belle Vue Manchester, which got in touch with Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to request money.

What is happening to Belle Vue Manchester’s fleet?

A total of 21 Scania double-decker school buses and a Mercedes Tourismo coach operated by Belle Vue are being retrofitted with new exhaust systems at a total cost of £350,000.

A Belle Vue Manchester bus

Based at Discovery Park in Stockport, the company carries two million passengers a year and provides education transport such as school buses as well as offering vehicles to corporate and social groups.

Why was the company so keen to get its vehicles retrofitted?

Belle Vue said that as a bus operator with environmental quality management policies it was important to act.

The company said the retrofits are in line with its values of providing cleaner and greener transport so cities become free of pollution and smog.

The firm also explained how it is using the latest technology to make its business as environmentally-friendly as possible.

Managing director Phil Hitchen said: “It’s essential that our cities have cleaner air, and updating vehicles with exhaust systems that meet new emission targets is absolutely necessary.

“We’re extremely grateful to TfGM for providing the necessary funding for retrofits to 22 vehicles in our fleet.

Phil Hitchen, managing director of Belle Vue Manchester

“It’s an important undertaking for our business, as it will ensure that these vehicles are as modern as the rest of our fleet, which already includes a significant number of hybrid buses.

“Diesel vehicles in our fleet have AdBlue fluid added to their engines to reduce emissions, and for a decade we have had a tracking system in place to better manage the performance of our drivers by assessing their acceleration, braking, idling and cornering.

“Optimal driving reduces emissions and contributes towards cleaner air.

“Our company is committed to providing passenger transport services that are safer, cleaner and greener and in line with local government strategy.”

What have transport bosses said?

Megan Black, TfGM’s head of logistics and environment, said: “The Greater Manchester authorities, in finalising the Clean Air Plan, have shown their commitment to tackling air pollution, which is the biggest environmental public health issue facing the city-region and contributes to around 1,200 deaths in Greater Manchester alone each year.

“Retrofitting is one of the solutions funded by the Clean Air Plan. We are delighted that operators like Belle Vue are taking advantage of the funding to retrofit their fleets to ensure their vehicles are compliant with the Clean Air Zone requirements.

“GM has secured a £120+ million fund from government for GM vehicle upgrades, and we want to support businesses and vehicle owners with advice on the options for them.

“Our Clean Air GM website has an indicative vehicle checker tool and we are encouraging people to find out more information about the time, money and options they have to upgrade.”