We care about our air. And air quality is an increasingly important subject of public debate. It has sparked passionate activism and new policies by Government at every level, and, more and more, society is waking up to the effects we have on the world around us. It touches on all bases: it’s an environmental issue, an economic issue and, most importantly, it’s a public health issue. So it is crucial that any action has to be ambitious, otherwise the true scale of the challenge will never be met.
Xplore Dundee wants the best possible future for this city: one where the air is a lot healthier and traffic moves a little quicker. We're investing millions in upgrading our fleet so that it is fit for the future. That means cutting down on - and eventually eliminating - harmful emissions. It also involves making the passenger experience more comfortable & convenient. Here, we set out the ten ways in which we're making a difference for Dundee:
Here is our promise to you: There will never be another new diesel bus in our fleet. As part of the National Express Group, Xplore Dundee recently pledged that our fleet will go from low-emission to no-emission by 2030. This is a big deal for the air we breathe and the wider world around us. Hydrogen & electricity will power our drive to improve environmental standards for the good of our city - meaning even more brand-new buses are still to come.
Our journey to a low-emission fleet actually began back in 2013, when the first batch of nine electric-hybrids took to the roads. They cut emissions by 30% compared to conventional diesel vehicles by harnessing excess energy to charge a motor which propelled the bus away from stops. Technology has since come a long way, but it shows that we have been serious about reducing our carbon footprint for many years.
We've come a long way in a short time: low-emission buses went from zero to 46% of our fleet in just one year. That accelerated investment, which will run into the tens of millions by the time we're finished, shows how serious we are about looking after the environment. It's also part of our pledge that every £1 we make in Dundee is £1 we will spend in Dundee. With Dundee's Low Emission Zone coming later this year, we're almost at the half-way point of compliance - but we won't be finished until our fleet is fully emission-free.
We launched the first Emerald buses on service 22 just before Christmas in 2018 - and they have already made a big difference. Passenger numbers are up and emissions are down (95% compared to regular diesel). They proved so popular that we ordered another batch to run on services 5 | 9/10 (so that all of Dundee has a chance to benefit), plus we make sure that spares run on other routes over the weekend too. These high-standard, low-emission vehicles include the latest modcons (such as free WiFi, USB charging, leather seats and extra leg room) and are the new normal for our fleet. Have you tried the Emerald Experience yet?
Dundee, like other Scottish cities, must introduce a Low Emission Zone by the end of this year. By Easter, our longest and busiest routes will all have Euro VI buses (which are even better for the environment than modern cars!). Services 5 | 9/10 | 22 | 28/29 will run using our most modern vehicles, with more on the way for every other service too. Beyond a low emission zone, we are aiming for a low emission city.
We're going the extra mile - literally, up Lochee Road! It is the fifth most polluted street in Scotland, yet is not planned to be part of the LEZ. So we took the initiative (a full year ahead of schedule) & have been running low-emission buses on Lochee Road since December 2019. On other routes, our low-emission buses are already acting as a preventative measure which reduces the risk of streets like Blackness Road, Hilltown and Perth Road from trapping pollution to the same extent as Lochee Road.
A car typically carries just 1.2 passengers whereas a double-deck bus has space to seat 74. Public transport shields our environment from thousands of journeys which would otherwise be taken by car - and we're trying to encourage more people to take the bus by making it more appealing than ever before. Of course, that only partly includes new buses which improve comfort and convenience. It also involves new technology such as contactless, mTickets and smart-cards which make it easier than ever to take advantage of our great-value ticket range, and journey planning apps such as Traveline Scotland which mean you can find your way quickly.
In addition to buying brand-new buses, we've bid into every round of the Scottish Government's BEAR retrofit fund. This scheme brings older buses up to modern standards. So far, we've had seven double-decks and ten single-decks upgraded (with these vehicles earmarked to operate via the Lochee Road on services 28/29). This scheme enables us to keep buses in our fleet which are only halfway through their life, which reduces waste.
We've also been swapping out older buses for newer replacements, upgrading the quality of the fleet overall. A batch of Enviro200 single decks are joining our fleet and, by Easter, will complement the newest Emeralds on services 5 | 9/10 - meaning they will run all around Dundee.
We trialled Tayside's first all-electric bus in 2018. And we're actively pursuing alternative fuelling solutions such as hydrogen and all-electric. This will eventually take us from low-emission to no-emission by 2030 - which is our Mission Zero. We’re charging ahead with environmental initiatives because it is the right thing for Dundee; the place and its people.
Published 1st March 2020