Green campaign helps win cleaner buses for Norwich

Green councillors have helped obtain over £400,000 funding to clean up 24 of Norwich’s dirtiest diesel buses.

This follows a sustained campaign by Norwich Green Party councillors to improve air pollution levels in the city.

The air in Norwich city centre has for years regularly exceeded EU limits for dangerous pollutants, largely due to the emissions from out-dated diesel buses.

Despite this fact, the proposed “Air Quality Management Plan” that Norwich City Council and Norfolk County Council jointly had to produce to address the issue was inadequate, said Green councillor Denise Carlo (pictured above).

She explained: “In the Plan covering Norwich City Centre, the officers had proposed raising bus emissions standards from Euro 3 to Euro 5 within five years, but we didn’t think that was good enough.”

The European Union introduces new tighter limits on emissions from newly-made vehicles every few years. The council’s favoured Euro 5 standard for existing buses had been superseded for new buses by Euro 6 back in 2013.

Cllr Carlo said: “Even worse, Norfolk County Council had specified Euro 4 compliance in a new Park and Ride contract – this reflected the low priority accorded by Norfolk County Council to air pollution.”

In the end the bus operator which won the contact – Konect – was more ambitious than the county council and proposed Euro 5 emissions.

Over the last 12months Green Party councillors have pushed the issue of cleaner air strongly.

Most importantly they did three things:

  • They put forward a motion to Norwich City Council in September 2015 calling on the council to amend the Action Plan to achieve Euro 6 emissions compliance for double decker buses and ultra low emissions for single deckers by 2020. This motion was passed but only after it was weakened by the ruling Labour group to achieve Euro 5 by 2018.
  • They helped discover that £416,000 was available from the Department of Transport under its Clean Bus Technology Fund to retrofit the exhaust systems of buses and upgrade them from Euro 3 to almost in line with Euro 6 standard. The deadline for applying was fast approaching so they asked officers to apply, which they did. This will enable the retrofit of 24 buses but over 250 badly polluting buses remain in operation.
  • Party activists gathered almost 1,500 signatures on a petition for cleaner buses in the city. In March 2016, they presented a 5 point plan to Norfolk County Council to remove polluting diesel engines from the City rapidly (see https://norwich.greenparty.org.uk/news/2016/03/10/greens-present-petition-to-clean-up-norwich-air/).

Cllr Carlo explained that the Green councillors’ research contributed to relevant officers applying for the 2015 grant, and now the Greens were pushing for much greater action.

The fact that Norfolk had won the bid was announced proudly by Norfolk County Council this January 2016.

Denise concluded: “As a result of our short campaign, vehicle emissions from buses in Norwich has risen up the political agenda. There is still a long way to go to clean up the local bus fleet, but hopefully, our efforts have made the Councils think about the issue.”

“Our small success shows the positive effect that Green councillors can have. At this time of substantial cuts to local government, Green councillors can play a positive role by researching and proposing positive practical solutions such as funding opportunities and the 5 point action plan.”

She said the ultimate goal was to bring all the remaining double deckers in Norwich up to Euro 6, since many were still languishing at Euro 3. “We would also like to see the councils pilot ultra-low-emission vehicles, notably electric engines, for single decker buses.”

en_GBEnglish