Reading Borough Council and Reading Buses has secured Government funding to invest in Reading Buses to bring the already environmentally friendly fleet up to the latest green standards, in a move to improve air quality on a number of roads in the town.
The move follows a national study conducted by the Government into high levels of nitrogen dioxide in which Reading and 32 other councils were identified as having roads, or sections of roads, which would exceed limits after 2019.
As a result of the study, the Government directed councils, including Reading, to carry out work to identify what measures, if any, would make the specific roads comply with nitrogen dioxide levels. Initially, the Government study identified part of the A329 from Vastern Road to the A33 junction.
The Council received Government funding and brought in specialist environmental consultants, Ricardo AEA, to conduct a detailed study and to computer model the impacts which any measures may have on nitrogen dioxide levels. The measures were required to make the roads identified comply in the shortest possible time and the Government set a tight timescale to complete the study.
Following further guidance, the Council was allowed to use its own local nitrogen dioxide data, which increased the number of roads which needed to be brought into compliance. These roads included London Road, Kings Road, Friar Street and Chatham Street.
The study came up with a number of options and three were submitted to the Government which could deliver the changes in the timescale required. The council’s recommendation was to combine an upgrade to both the bus and taxi fleet which would deliver the greatest improvement in the shortest possible time.
The Government analysed the report and has committed to investing £1.53m to upgrade 96 buses in the town. The project to upgrade the 96 buses will begin in the New Year and must be completed by the end of the year.
Tony Pettitt, Chief Finance and Information Officer for Reading Buses said:
“We are pleased to be part of this project which will benefit everyone in Reading. We have a long history of leading the industry in trialling, and subsequently using, new and cutting-edge environmental bus innovation and working with Reading Borough Council and the UK Government we look forward to being able to achieve the best possible outcome for the town and further reduce emissions.”
Councillor Tony Page, Reading’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“I welcome this funding which will result in Reading’s bus fleet becoming even cleaner and greener than it already is.
“Like many large towns and cities in the UK, parts of Reading are blighted by pollution and the Council has been leading the way to improve air quality by making public transport, cycling and walking more attractive.
“However, the Council cannot tackle this national problem alone and this extra funding will help deliver the improved air quality Reading residents rightly expect.”
The information and findings from the Ricardo AEA report will support ongoing work on the Council’s Air Quality Action Plan and support further bids for Government grants. The council is currently in the process of delivering a grant funded project on improving electric charging points.
There are a number of major ongoing transport projects aimed at promoting the use of alternative modes of transport to the car to help tackle air pollution. These include the South Reading Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) scheme, East Reading MRT, NCN Cycle Route 422 and Green Park Station.