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Do old buses have a special permission to emit lots of smoke?

I regularly end up following 2004 registered double-decker buses around Huddersfield. The exhaust is that bad that I have to put the air-con recirculation on to avoid a car full of smoke.
I'm assuming the bus company are well aware of the issue and choose not to do anything about it, but I imagine a car that chucked out this amount of smoke would fail its MOT. It seems odd that buses get away with it. Do they have the same emission controls that we motorists have?

Asked on 23 June 2021 by Sven H

Answered by Georgia Petrie
While it's fairly common for large bus companies to move fleets around the country, some cities get more of these older buses than others. Norwich, for example, was reported to be a dumping ground for old, polluting buses a couple of years ago. Some sources say that older buses, from before 2005, emit up to ten times more pollution than newer vehicles, unless they go through a revamp known as retrofitting. Buses are also one of the major contributors to air pollution in cities.

While this isn't exactly our area of expertise, but here's a current overview of the situation (it's not entirely encouraging, I must admit). The Confederation for Passenger Transport (the trade body for bus and coach operators) set a target in their recently published bus strategy for all buses to be ultra-low or zero-emission by 2025 (2023 in some urban areas). The aims prioritised by the Government are quite vague in that, essentially, conventional buses will be replaced with zero-emission buses and infrastructure 'over a period of time'.

In 2015, £30.4 million was allocated to operators and local authorities under the Low Emission Bus Scheme which funded 326 low emission buses. A further £11.2 million was allocated in August 2017, funding an additional 153 buses. In March 2018, the Government launched the £48 million Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme which provided funding to 19 local authorities and bus operators to support the purchase of 263 zero-emission buses. Projections show that bus and coach emissions are projected to fall by 25% from 2018 to 2050.

The source is 'Decarbonising Transport':

In March 2021, as part of the Government’s new National Bus Strategy, £3bn was committed to the sector. The strategy includes delivering 4,000 new British-built electric or hydrogen buses across the UK. Again, there's also a commitment to end the sale of diesel buses – building on the Government’s existing 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales. The document states that they'll open consultations with the industry as soon as possible to determine an appropriate end date for sales - but nothing confirmed as of yet.

The source is 'Bus Back Better':
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