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Research on electric buses and traffic signals is a breath of fresh air

Published: Monday, December 4, 2017

Double Decker bus on the road in Cambridge

New cutting-edge research on creating a low emission bus network and modernising traffic signals to reduce pollution in Cambridge and the surrounding area has begun this week.

The studies have been commissioned by the Greater Cambridge Partnership to create a sustainable travel network and improve air quality. The transport consultancy, Skanska, have been appointed to undertake the research.

It is anticipated that a 60 percent increase in buses will be required to deal with projected growth in the city. Cambridge currently has areas with poor air quality, with buses being responsible for a significant proportion of the pollution. The government’s aspirations are for all vehicles to switch to electric or low emission technology by 2040.

The traffic signals research aims to find ways to achieve more efficient movement of people across the transport network and improve air quality by preventing idling engines and unnecessary accelerating/braking vehicles, which results in higher levels of emissions.

Research on low emission electric buses (LEB) aims to create options for a roll out and operation of a LEB network in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire, including identifying current and emerging electric vehicle technology and its potential benefit on air quality in Cambridge.

Alongside this new research, the Partnership aims to run a trial of electric buses on the network next year and are investigating establishing a Clean Air Zone around the city to improve air quality, which could ban or charge polluting vehicles.

Councillor Francis Burkitt, Chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership, said: “Technology is developing rapidly and enables us to work smarter - this research will provide new solutions to make our traffic signalling more efficient and look at the opportunities of using electric buses to improve air quality and provide quality public transport.“

Low emissions buses could use hydrogen or battery power to fuel an electric engine. The choice of electric and hydrogen over other technology is to ensure the lowest tailpipe emissions possible.

Electric buses are currently operating in a number of UK cities, including York, London, Nottingham and Milton Keynes.

With more than 180 individual traffic signals within Cambridge, the research looks to improve performance by making signals more efficient, investigating routes to prioritise and using new technology. The scope includes all traffic signals within the wider Cambridge area bounded by the M11, A11 and A14, including the junctions of those roads (where they have traffic signals).

The outcomes of the research will be included in the Greater Cambridge Joint Assembly and Executive Board meetings in spring 2018, with officer recommendations on the next steps.

Further information on the research commissioned can be found on the Greater Cambridge Partnership website: