UK looks to public transport to solve air quality concerns

It is estimated that long-term exposure to air pollution is responsible for the premature deaths of more than 16,000 people in the UK - 9,000 in London alone. Across the world, one out of every nine deaths results from air pollution. A recent Volvo Buses poll show people in the UK look to public transport to solve air quality concerns.

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Increasingly strict emission targets are encouraging cities to introduce new and more environmentally friendly transport, particularly electric buses. This is fueling electric vehicle innovation which will positively impact air quality and reshape the cities of tomorrow.

To better understand the opportunities and challenges this presents, infrastructure experts, academics, futurologists and transport policy leaders will gather to debate a vision of future city transport at Volvo Group’s Innovation Summit taking place 16th May in London.

Leading up to the event Volvo Buses conducted a survey with over 2000 UK adults (figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults, aged 18+). Some of the key findings include the following:

  • Over half (52%)* of all UK adults would be happy to tolerate only public transport being allowed in their nearest city if it meant air quality could be improved
  • Nearly a quarter (23%)* of all UK adults would prioritize public money being invested into improved or increased bus services in UK cities
  • Increased adoption of electric bus fleet set to help reduce the UK’s 16,000** yearly deaths associated with air pollution, with 26%* of all UK adults believing making buses electric would have the greatest reduction in harmful gas emissions

One out of every nine deaths worldwide results from air pollution
It is estimated that long-term exposure to air pollution is responsible for the premature deaths of more than 16,000 people in the UK - 9,000 in London alone. Across the world, one out of every nine deaths results from air pollution. Curbing vehicle-use is a global trend intended to reduce this number.

The introduction of initiatives such as ‘Ultra Low Emission Zones’ targets the worst offending vehicles, particularly those with diesel engines. Indeed, 35%* of UK adults feel creating "clean air zones", where vehicles that produce a certain amount of pollution pay a fee (e.g. a ‘clear air’ charge) should be extended as a policy to further improve air quality.

This has led to a surge in interest for sustainable public transport whilst also increasing the need for public/private sector partnerships. As the adoption of electric buses will require infrastructure improvements, Volvo believes local transport authorities and bus manufacturers need to further this collaboration moving forward.

While the London Underground attracts more attention, nearly twice as many passenger journeys are made on London's buses, with nearly 2.4 billion journeys every year***. This number is expected to rise in the coming years not only in London but globally as urbanization continues unabated. In the UK capital, a significant investment in hybrid buses in recent years has contributed to improve air quality. In Oxford Street, one of London’s most polluted streets, toxic air levels have dropped by a third in just twelve months****.

Further advances in technology mean that other options are now available to further electrify city bus fleets. These include 'plug-in-hybrid' and pure electric buses which reduce CO2 emissions by 47-100%, eliminate noise and reduce NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) and particulate emissions by 99-100% when compared to conventional buses.

Ulf Magnusson, SVP Business Region Europe at Volvo Buses said: “We believe electric bus systems are the future of urban public transport, as environmentally clean and comfortable as a tram or light rail, but at a fraction of the overall cost. As major cities look to improve air quality, reduce noise and future-proof its public transport, electric bus systems have great potential to be part of the solution.”

"What these results show is that the implementation of cleaner air practices and infrastructure is a priority for the public; key to this is the fundamental support from government level.”

Reduced emissions and noise levels coupled with advances in autonomous vehicles will also open up significant innovations including indoor bus stops, or even bus stops placed within residential or commercial buildings such as shopping centers. This opens up new possibilities for city planning.

Learn more about Volvo Buses offerings for city transportation here: http://www.volvobuses.com/en-en/our-offering/buses.html

Total sample size of the survey was 2,051 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken 9th - 10th May 2017.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

* Source: Volvo Buses poll of 2000 people in the UK, 9th May 2017
** Source: The Times, 27th September 2016
*** Source: TfL annual report 2015 1.3 billion passenger journeys were made on London Underground in 2014/15 while 2.4 billion passenger journeys were made on London's buses
**** Source: The Evening Standard, 16th January 2017