Southampton’s air-filtering bus is the first step towards cleaner cities

Southampton was chosen for the pilot after the World Health Organisation revealed earlier this year that the city is at its absolute limit of air pollution

The UK’s first air-filtering bus has been unveiled in Southampton in a move to tackle dangerous levels of urban air pollution.

Operated by public transport company Go-Ahead, the vehicle is fitted with a filtration system designed to clear 99.5 per cent of toxic particles from air. Scientists say the filter, found on the roof of the Bluestar bus, traps the ultrafine particles as the bus moves, expelling almost pure air out behind it.

Go-Ahead chief executive David Brown said: “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. As the bus removes the ultrafine particles from the air as it travels along the route, it is helping solve the air quality problems of the city. Imagine the change we could make to air quality if all buses had this technology.”

The prototype was manufactured by Pall Aerospace, a leading filtration company.

Southampton was chosen for the pilot after the World Health Organisation revealed earlier this year that the city is at its absolute limit of air pollution. In 2015, the city was warned – alongside Derby, Birmingham, Nottingham and Leeds – that it must deliver plans to deal with exceptionally high air toxins. Experts estimate that air pollution causes up to 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK. Last month a group of 17 city leaders called for the government to take action on the country’s “growing air pollution public health crisis”.

Andrea Lee, senior campaigner for environmental law activists ClientEarth, said: “It’s pleasing to see innovative attempts to clean up our dirty air. However, this shouldn’t take away from the real priority of not causing pollution in the first place. We need fewer, cleaner vehicles on the road. Ultimately, we would like to see buses which emit zero emissions from the exhaust pipe as standard.

“But this won’t happen without concerted action by the UK government, which should be introducing a national network of clean zones to protect people from the worst polluting vehicles in the most polluted areas of our towns and cities.”

The weight of the filter will be measured at the end of the three-month trial and compared to its weight prior to operation – it is predicted that the extra weight it gains will indicate how successfully it trapped the polluting particles. It is hoped that the technology will be rolled out on all 4,600 Go-Ahead buses if the filter proves effective.

Image: Go-Ahead