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MSPs back buses to help tackle air quality and congestion in Scotland

25 Sep 2017

· New survey reveals overwhelming support for greater investment in public transport
· Significant backing for walking and cycling, clean air zones and bus priority measures
· ComRes findings revealed as Scottish Government progresses Low Emission Zones plan
· Technology innovation means new buses are 10 times cleaner than latest diesel cars

MSPs have backed Scotland's buses as a means to help tackle growing concerns over poor air quality and crippling congestion in towns and cities across the country, according to new research.

A survey of Holyrood's elected representatives reveals overwhelming support for greater investment in public transport to help tackle air quality, and the health, social and economic costs of the problem. 

The poll of MSPs at the Scottish Parliament also found that a majority back clean air zones (51%), encouraging walking and cycling (74%) and investing in public transport (81%)as part of preferred government measures.

Leading independent research consultancy ComRes surveyed 43 MSPs from across all main parties on behalf of Stagecoach, the UK's biggest bus and coach operator. 

The research findings are published as the Scottish Government progresses plans to create a first Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) in a Scottish city by the end of 2018. 

In addition, ministers want to work with local authorities to introduce LEZs into Scotland's four biggest cities - Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee - by 2020 and to all Air Quality Management Areas by 2023. The Scottish Government has also pledged to phase out new petrol and diesel cars and vans across Scotland by 2032.

Key findings of the ComRes survey were:
· Four in five MSPs (81%) rank investing more in public transport services in their top three priorities for improving air quality and nearly half rank it as their top choice (49%).

· A majority of MSPs think that buses have a positive impact on road congestion (60%) and air quality (51%). 

· Half of MSPs also rank clean air zones in towns and cities (51%), and nearly two in five rank introducing more bus priority measures (37%) in their top three priorities to improve air quality.

· Three quarters of MSPs (74%) say the Scottish Government should encourage people to walk or cycle to work as part of their top three air quality measures and a quarter rank it as their top choice (23%). 

· Some 21% of MSPs rank in their top 3 priorities introducing a tax on the most polluting cars or discouraging single occupancy cars.

Robert Andrew, Managing Director Scotland, Stagecoach UK Bus, said: "Worsening air quality and crippling congestion has huge health, social and economic costs for our country and our communities.

"These results show that there is a broad consensus across political parties in Scotland that there should be greater investment in public transport services and that buses are key to addressing both of these challenges.

"The best and quickest way to improve local air quality is by encouraging modal shift away from the private car to public transport. Technology innovation combined with huge investment by bus operators means that today's buses are a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to cars, which are the biggest contributors to roadside pollution. Buses are also key to economic growth.

"It's vital that the multi-million-pound investment by the bus industry is matched by action from government and local authorities to back the bus and put it at the heart of their strategy to drive economic growth, improve our nation's health and support more sustainable communities."

Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, said: “It’s pleasing to see MSPs of all parties show such strong support for sustainable transport, and for cutting air pollution in our towns and cities.

“The Scottish Government’s commitment to introduce Low Emission Zones in Scotland’s four biggest cities by 2020 is to be praised. Along with the commitment to phase out the sale of fossil fuel cars by 2032, this will be vital in tackling the illegal levels of air pollution in Scotland. LEZs have worked in hundreds of other towns and cities across Europe, and it is now time for Scotland to catch up with best practice across the Continent.

“LEZs should focus on removing the most polluting cars and vans from town centres. It is essential for us to have strong public transport services to provide a compelling alternative to private car use, and any new LEZs must be accompanied by the strict enforcement of existing bus lanes, improved traffic management and the introduction of new bus priority measures.”

Since 2007, Stagecoach has invested more than £1billion in around 7,000 new lower carbon buses across the UK. It includes a £70m investment in 340 new Euro 6 buses in 2017-18, with the majority featuring innovative emissions-reducing stop-start technology.

Stagecoach is the UK’s biggest investor in hybrid electric bus technology in the UK. The company operates Europe's biggest hydrogen bus fleet in Aberdeen, it operates a fully electric bus service in Inverness and the company uses between 30% and 100% bio-content fuel across the rest of its fleet. All of Stagecoach's vehicles are also fitted with eco-driving technology and bus drivers can share a £1million annual bonus for safer and more fuel-efficient driving.

Bus technology innovation has resulted in dramatically cleaner buses over the past decade. Research published by Greener Journeys shows that latest Euro VI diesel buses are incredibly clean and produce fewer emissions overall than a Euro 6 diesel car, and ten times fewer on a per passenger basis.