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Funding agreed for retrofit bus programme

Published: Wednesday, 21st April 2021

£800,000 funding has been agreed to improve air quality in Stoke-on-Trent following approval by city council cabinet members at a meeting yesterday (April 20).

The funding will be used to retrofit buses in the city subject to final agreements with First Bus.  

It is part of a response to a government direction which requires interventions in three key corridors in the area to reduce air pollution. Two of the corridors are in Stoke-on-Trent: Bucknall New Road and Victoria Road.

Whilst some details of the final proposals for how to do this are still under discussion, the option to improve bus emissions has already been agreed by the Joint Air Quality Unit in government. And for the Bucknall New Road corridor, reducing bus emissions through a retrofit programme will achieve air quality level compliance.

Discussions have already been underway with First Bus, the bus operator in the city and fifty buses have already been identified for the retrofits. Based on experience in other areas where this has already happened, it’s likely to take six months for the work to be completed. 

While the £800,000 funding will cover the majority of the costs, it wouldn’t cover all.

As a result, today Cabinet approved that the scheme should only progress if the city council receives further government funding to cover all costs. At the same time, First bus is continuing to speak with government directly to see if they can agree additional funding to ensure all costs are covered.

Councillor Carl Edwards, cabinet member for the environment at Stoke-on-Trent City Council and chair of the cross-agency Joint Advisory Group for air quality, said: “We are absolutely committed to improving air quality people in Stoke-on-Trent, and we welcome this funding from government and this measure being introduced which we know for the Bucknall New Road area will ensure compliance with the air quality directive.

“At the same time, we have always said that we are concerned that any measures introduced are balanced with any economic impact, non-more so than in a post-pandemic era where our residents try and return to a new normal and business operate in fundamentally different ways. 

“It is our view that any measures must aim to protect people’s livelihoods at the same time as ensuring the health and wellbeing of residents. This approval for acceptance of funding is for that reason subject to the additional money being given to cover all costs so that local taxpayers don’t have to pick up the bill for any overspill. We’re hopeful that government will agree to the position that the council has advised and we can agree the finer points of detail so that we can then implement the agreement.”