Andrew Wickham - A breath of fresh air for Southampton
Andrew Wickham, Managing Director of Go South Coast, writes for the CPT for Clean Air Day, all about Bluestar’s fleet of air filtering buses that are cleaning Southampton’s air.
As a major operator across the South Coast of England, we recognise the unique role that buses can play in combatting poor air quality and congestion. In 2018, a report from the World Health Organisation indicated that Southampton’s city centre was at its limit for unsafe air pollution. That’s why our parent company Go-Ahead decided to trial innovative technology to combat this serious issue.
We pioneered the idea for an ‘air filtering bus’, by adding a filter to the top of a single-decker bus that can clean the atmosphere as it travels. Developed in conjunction with PALL Aerospace, the filter takes in the particulate matter PM10 from the atmosphere and blows out clean air onto the route behind it.
We added the filter on the top of a single deck Bluestar bus and trialled it for 100 days. In this time, the single bus cleaned 3.2 million cubic metres of the city’s air and collected 65g of particulate matter, which is roughly the weight of a tennis ball. Although that may sound small in isolation, the weight of a tennis ball is not an insignificant amount when you consider these particles are microscopic – roughly smaller than a tenth of a diameter of a human hair.
Our trial bus, like many other buses in our fleet, have Euro VI engines, which produce less nitrogen oxide emissions than a single diesel car. This means with each journey saved through not taking the car, passengers are actively helping improve Southampton’s air quality.
We have now installed a filter on six buses of our Bluestar fleet, meaning we can remove 1.25kg of particulate matter from Southampton’s air each year. The buses remove 99.5% of ultra-fine particles and consume and filter the same amount of air as 6,000 people breathe an hour.
During the lockdown we experienced cleaner air across the country. However, it is alarming that people are turning to the car, when buses are a clean, safe and fundamentally better option for the environment than cars. We believe our air filtering buses provide a quick win for councils that are exploring clean air zones to tackle toxic pollution.
Go-Ahead is ready to share this innovative technology with other local authorities in the UK and is working to secure funding for more air filtering buses in other major cities. Buses are part of the solution to clean our air and cut congestion.