london air pollution

Air-filtering buses to be deployed in English towns and cities

Image credit: Dreamstime

Buses equipped with fans to capture pollutants from the air are being rolled out to six towns and cities in England, following a successful trial last year.

Each single-decker bus has three fans on its roof; as they drive, these fans suck ultra-fine particles and dirt into filters. It then allows the bus to release purer air. The technology was tested in a trial in Southampton last year using Bluestar buses and saw 65g of pollutants (equivalent to the weight of a tennis ball) extracted over a 100-day period.

Following the trial, a further five buses will be deployed in Southampton by early February. Further air-filtering vehicles will be introduced to Brighton, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Plymouth, and Crawley in summer.

The buses will be operated by the Go-Ahead Group: one of the UK’s largest public transport providers.

“We want to play our part in tackling the crisis in urban air quality and show that buses can be integral to cleaning up our cities,” said Go-Ahead CEO David Brown. “Our air-filtering system has exceeded all expectations in how it can benefit the environment, and it builds on our track record as operator of the UK’s greenest bus fleet.”

“We believe the Air Filtering Bus provides a quick win for councils as they explore initiatives such as Clean Air Zones to tackle toxic pollution.”

In recent years, pressure has mounted on governments and the transport sector to reduce urban air pollution and save lives. According to a report by the European Environment Agency, 400,000 premature deaths in 2016 alone could be traced back to air pollution, and almost all Europeans living in cities are exposed to levels of air pollution exceeding WHO guidelines. Exposure to air pollution such as PM2.5 (fine particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) is associated with increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease, but more recent studies have linked exposure to a smorgasbord of conditions, including depression, septicaemia, kidney failure, pneumonia, Parkinson’s disease, UTIs, and many others.

Most efforts and proposals involve discouraging use of private, highly-polluting vehicles – such as London’s congestion charges – although some technological solutions to capture emissions have also been proposed. In December, Swiss researchers proposed a method for reducing the carbon emissions of trucks by 90 per cent with a small system which can be retrofitted to existing vehicles.

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