First West of England has announced a mammoth spending investment to its fleet of buses to ensure they are compliant with Bristol’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) which comes into effect today (November 28).
The bus operator confirmed a £30million injection made by itself and its partners, including Bristol City Council which secured £2.5million funding from a government programme. Non-compliant buses are required to pay a daily charge of £100 if the route takes it through the zone. Failure to do so within a week of the trip can result in a £120 fine, reduced to £60 quickly, plus the original charge.
Through a combination of new buses – including 99 biomethane-powered buses that use food waste as fuel – and retrofits of new technology to slightly older models, First Bus has ensured that all its buses meet the minimum Euro 6 emissions standard. This change will reduce harmful emissions by up to 95% compared to replaced vehicles. Around 36% of First Bus’s active UK fleet has undergone retrofit and further upgrades are planned
Managing Director, Doug Claringbold said: “We are fully prepared for the introduction of the Clean Air Zone with greener and cleaner buses. With the help of Government funding, we have invested in new buses and retrofitted older buses. We wholeheartedly endorse the council’s work on cleaner air, as they work with city partners to make Bristol carbon neutral by 2030.”
Three-quarters of Bristol vehicles are already compliant so will not have to pay to enter the CAZ. The city’s council has confirmed four months of exemptions, until the end of March 2023, for affected drivers who are low-income workers, hospital patients/visitors, and/or Blue Badge holders, alongside £42 million to support people and businesses to upgrade their vehicles. First West of England and the council have also collaborated to offer free ‘bus taster’ tickets to residents as they adapt to the new charge.
To date, the council states that it has received 6,000 applications for financial support to change or upgrade vehicles. More than 1,500 applications for temporary exemptions have been approved, mostly to Blue Badge holders, and over 8,000 active travel offers such as bus tickets and Voi scooter credit have been given out. Motorists can check whether their vehicle is exempt from CAZ charges by checking here.