The council and Reading Buses have been accused of hypocrisy and greenwashing as a majority of the bus fleet uses diesel.

Reading Buses has been rolling out its open top bus, unofficially known as ‘Fernanda’, periodically throughout the summer.

But when Reading Buses tweeted that ‘Fernanda’ would be serving the 17 route recently, the bus company was accused of being hypocritical by Reading community campaigner Nick Fudge.

Reading Buses is owned by Reading Borough Council, with Mr Fudge questioning how the council can meet its net zero by 2030 climate emergency goals with its bus company primarily having a diesel fleet.

Mr Fudge said: “Reading Borough Council have declared ‘a climate emergency’ and Reading town centre air is some of the worst polluted in the UK so just wondering why Reading Buses are rolling out a ‘diesel fuel’ vehicle across town?

“It all seems a little bit hypocritical & greenwashing to me.”

Reading has been identified as being one of the worst places in the country for air quality in reports made in 2021 and 2022.

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Mr Fudge cited a Centre for Cities article from 2021 stating that 15 per cent of lung and heart-damaging nitrogen oxide emissions in London came from buses.

Information about the Reading Buses fleet is publicly available, with 188 of its vehicles being diesel-fuelled, 61 fuelled using CNG biomethane gas, and one bus being electric.

That’s according to information from 2021-22, which contains details about its buses, vans and cars.

A spokesperson for Reading Buses has hit back at the criticism, arguing the amount of customers a bus can serve is significantly less polluting than individuals using private cars.

They commented: “Buses are a key tool in the quest to reduce pollution, helping to take hundreds of private cars off the road each day, reducing congestion, and supporting the economic growth of the area by providing access to jobs, education, retail and entertainment.

“In some circumstances it has been shown that a modern diesel bus emits fewer particulates than a single modern car, let alone the 75+ cars that a double-decker can replace.

“In that sense, running diesel buses, and promotional stunts with our open top bus to help encourage people onto our services, generates a huge benefit to the environment as a whole.

“We are of course also conscious of our own carbon emissions, and 60 out of 153 buses that we currently have based in Reading run on sustainably sourced biomethane.

“All of our diesel buses have been fitted with emissions reduction technology so that they all meet the latest Euro 6 standards, regardless of their age.”

The spokesperson added that the bus depot has solar panels, with approval granted for a total of 1,402 panels to be added to the roof.

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While the company is seeking to invest in zero-emission vehicles, these come at a significant cost, with Reading Buses so far being unable to secure funding from the government.

The spokesperson added: “We are not willing to compromise on the quality or price of our services to our customers just to say that we are green – fundamentally we can save more carbon by carrying people on diesel buses at lower fares.

“However, global warming is a significant issue, as highlighted by the climate stripes applied to one of our buses last year, and we all need to continue making steps to reduce carbon emissions.

“A quick win is to switch from the private car to the bus whenever possible.”