A bus that actually cleans up air pollution has launched in the UK

A bus designed to filter out harmful particles from the air as it drives has launched for the first time in the UK.

Credit:  Go-Ahead/ The Bluestar bus

Credit: Go-Ahead/ The Bluestar bus

The Bluestar bus was launched in Southhampton on Thursday, in an effort to combat Britain’s pressing air pollution problems.

Southampton, on the south coast, was chosen as the first place to trial the bus after the World Health Organisation said earlier in the year that the city was at its limit for unsafe air pollution.

The Go-Ahead Group, one of Britain’s largest bus and rail operators, is behind the move.

“We want this pilot to show that buses should be looked at as not just the solution to congestion in cities, but also as a solution to the air quality problem,” said Go-Ahead chief executive David Brown in a statement.

“We are going a step further in the potential for our buses to actively clean the environment,” he said. “It’s a huge development in our environmental leadership and we are also proud to be pioneering the prototype in the UK.”

An air filter fitted to the top of the bus removes “ultrafine particules from the air and traps them as the bus moves through the streets,” according to a statement.

It means that the bus reportedly emits purer air, so the air behind it is cleaner that the air ahead of it. This single bus will clean the air on its route 1.7 times a year to a height of 10 metres, according to Go-Ahead.

But if all Bluestar buses were fitted with the technology it would clean the air in the Southampton areas 16 times a year to a height of 10 metres — “not only making an important chance to air quality, but to people’s lives," said the statement.

The air filter is manufactured by Pall Aerospace, the world’s largest aerospace and defence filtration company, and it has reportedly been designed for particle removal efficiency of 99.5%.

If the trial is successful, the filter system could be rolled out to the 5,000-strong fleet of Go-Ahead buses.

Andrew Wickham, managing director of Bluestar told the Daily Echo: “The air is a real problem for people’s health, especially those with pre-existing respiratory and lung conditions. It can lead to asthma and premature death, so by cleaning the air in this way it could lead to a number of lives being saved.”

Air pollution leads to the premature deaths of around 40,000 people in the UK every year, according to the Royal College of Physicians — with the health effects costing Britain around £20 billion a year.

According to a report released by the WHO in May 2018, people in 31 towns and cities across the country are breathing air that fails to meet international safety standards. A further 15 places are on the limit, including Southampton.

The WHO has set a safety limit on fine particle air pollution of 10 micrograms per cubic metre — but in the Welsh town of Port Talbot, which has the highest air pollution level in the UK, the number of micrograms per cubic metre is 18.

Other cities that were, like Southampton, revealed to be right on the limit were Birmingham, Brighton, Cardiff, Newcastle, Oxford, and Portsmouth.