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diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

Like anyone with half a conscience, I worry about pollution from diesel particulates emitted by the old AEC engines. On the other hand, a bus with a decent load of passengers is replacing a lot of cars. Then there is the fact that my three Routemasters, dating from the early 1960s, have between them seen off a large fleet of new buses that might have been built in their place during that time – with all the carbon emissions from production that this entails.

What I want to know is: does anyone have any kind of formula or calculation – or even a rough idea – of net environmental cost/benefit to keeping an old Routemaster on the road?

My bus number (if any): WLT 737 WLT 875 353 CLT

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

Good luck with that one.

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

I hope some replies are a bit more enlightening! Come on you scientists and engineers...

My bus number (if any): WLT 737 WLT 875 353 CLT

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

Well it's a tricky one but one has to take a step back, smell the coffee and be more analytical of the current wave of hysteria that modern soundbite communication has created.

Of course by modern technology standards, most engines fitted originally to pre Euro era buses including Routemasters are Polluting.

But when the Routemaster was designed, it too was as cutting edge as the Wright New Routemaster.

The scenario was different but not all that different. London was a truly filthy place, lead, sulphur, soot, diesel, toxins coming out of factories, coal gasworks and steam locomotives.
Which led to man made fogs which really did kill people and damage health. Bronchitis, lung cancer, and a raft of illnesses forced action.

Yet despite all this, the vast majority of adults also smoked !

But the prime mover was the Suez Crisis and the beginning of the end of very cheap fuel.

So the Routemaster was designed to make that fuel go further per mile. It means that it was as efficient as engineering, manufacturing and design could go.
Being standardised and supported by and overhaul system made that even more so by the degree of recycling.

Since then improved materials and fuels have improved that further.

London in the meantime has become unrecognisable. Fish now live in the Thames which used to stink even in the 1970s. Most of the grime has been removed and it is a far,far cleaner healthier place - as are all urban areas. People live longer and generally healthier.

Most of those illnesses are now rare apart from Asthma, but this condition is not, as reported, wholly attributable to man made pollution. Spores from trees and grasses can cause it and cases per 1000 are the same in rural areas as it is in urban areas. It is just densification of populous that causes it to seem more common. I know as I have had this as a child and then lived in a very clean open area.

The biggest single mistake was probably abolishing the London Trolleybus network. But that in itself was dependent on very polluting coal fired power stations located in London. So whilst the RM my not have come to fruit as a Diesel bus, it may have evolved as a trolleybus, with the same weight ratios to maximise cost per mile.

But the fact the Routemaster has lasted so long makes it a very green vehicle. It's latter retrofit engines reduced emissions ( although old sooty diesel exhausts were dense and whilst dirty, could not penetrate skin, modern diesel can and the N.Ox is the problem.

The current building of buses and cars with a short life is hugely wasteful. When it is insisted that a vehicle has to be 90% recyclable, no-one factors in the cost of recycling. It requires energy and is some materials more energy than creating from raw materials. For recycling of a steel body it has to have been used for 22 years to justify the recycling cost. Otherwise it is cheaper to use raw material steel.

Then there is the farce of electric vehicles. Huge lakes in China are no so toxic that just dipping your toes into the water can potentially kill you and certainly make you sick.

The toxic extraction of lithium if done in compliance to H&S regulations would make the cost astronomic and completely uneconomic. It is more lethal than asbestos.
Of course because it is is all left to China, that's OK. Not if we have a global problem. But I don't hear Greta and her fathers writings attacking China, just about what we do here.

What we do here is always strive for a better solution. It was economic but it is now environomic. But so far most solutions are flawed somewhere along the line. Fobbing the subsequent shortcomings to another part of the planet is not the solution. But it looks good for the Politicians and the spin.

At our firm, we have spent millions of euros in compliance and enhancements fleet wide. Tractor units are now very short-lived yet the technology had ramped up the costs.
Full consumption is up and one questions the need to replace so often as this in itself is hugely wasteful of resources and dos not add up to the energy and resources used over energy and resources used for recycling.

Electric motors require copper - a finite resource which can at least be recycled. But electric motors also emit toxins.
Hydrogen is the best solution - except production of Hydrogen uses more polluting raw materials to produce making a gallon of diesel far more environmentally economic and safer.

So the RMs service life alone makes it by present comparison of service life, simplicity and mileage 3 times more environmentally sound that it's modern eco friendly counterparts. The same could probably be made for RTs whose sheer simplicity and use of sustainable materials runs a similar parallel.

So devices and means to keep and older engined RM on the road are prudent and responsible, it's a vehicle still ahead of it's time in best use of resources.

My own view decanted from dealing with all the rules and regs at work.

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

As Jack Norrie say above, a difficult one to deal with. when I ran Nostalgiabus at Mitcham we had a fleet of about 6RMs, mostly for private hire, but used on Surrey Council school routes. When SCC questioned the economics of running RMs vs "box" buses I proved that the rMs were cheaper.

Box buses (Metrobus/Olympian) were being withdrawn ad could be bought for say £15k-£20k. HP repayments were about £1k a month over 3 years. The RMs were bought for a price below that from Dave Pring, I can't remember how much. The difference in cost between the boxes and RMs were: RM 8-12mpg compared to 4-6mpg, better reliability of RMs, cheaper maintenance of RMs as they were easier to fix, less to go wrong, they were paid for but still had a depreciating book value. the difference between the conductor's wages and the running/hp costs madho know about these things are barking up the worng tree with vehie quite a difference in the tender price in favour of the RMs.

As for pollution, I still think Those Who Know About These Things are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to emissions. Have a look at the smoke that comes out of the typical fast food outlet. How many tens of thousands of those have sprung up in the last 20 years or so? How many houses have central heating these days? The monster cruise ships floating around the globe reportedly pumping out more emissions than 6m cars every year.

Even the bus tendering system in London ignores emissions. why keep sending dead buses miles away to start and finish their runs because garage A is slightly cheaper than Garage B on financial costs.

Again, back in the day, mid 1990s, I had conversations with those high up in LT companies about emissions. The RM at 12mpg would surely pump out less emissions than a box bus at 4mpg, even though the box bus may produce "better quality" emissions. It really doesn't add up. Emissions are emissions regardless of quality, they all do damage. It's the law of unintended consequences.

My bus number (if any): RML2532

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

Thank you Jack. Some fascinating stuff here, and a useful long perspective. I'd love to use some of your comments in a blog on this issue, if you were happy with that...

My bus number (if any): WLT 737 WLT 875 353 CLT

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

Thanks Roy - another very interesting reply. Ditto what I said about Jack and blog.

My bus number (if any): WLT 737 WLT 875 353 CLT

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

Other than the discussion possibilities I can't see where this is going. You are never going to convince anybody other than a bunch of wooly-hatted bus enthusiasts that a Routemaster fitted with an AEC or Leyland engine, or any other pre Euro VI engine, is not chucking out significant harmful emissions.

The Police and Ministry of Transport used to pull over lorries regularly for blacking throughout the country; Archway was a favourite spot. This always used to create resentment from drivers and operators with the justified argument being: "just look at all that smoke coming out of London Buses but we don't see them being pulled over."

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

Aa has been said I think the only argument you could possibly use is that in the past the longevity of the Routemasters in London saved valuable energy and materials from being used up by the building and recycling of probably several thousand replacement vehicles that weren’t required.

My bus number (if any): RML 2747

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

Thinking about it apart from RTB’s comment on the vast amounts of diesel being saved by better fuel economy over the more modern contemporary vehicles - there’s the fact that apart from spending less time at bus stops due to the provision of a conductor with faster boarding, less fuel is used and proportionally less emissions emitted from an idling engine in one location, not obstructing other vehicles so much so helping traffic flow, but also the provision of a wage for all those conductors must have been an asset to the economy, even more in the lean times of mass unemployment elsewhere in the country ?

My bus number (if any): RML 2747

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

Has anyone ever used Wurth oil additives? These are claimed to reduce oil leaks and blue exhaust.

My bus number (if any): WLT 737 WLT 875 353 CLT

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

No problem Sam, but they are my personal comments not those of the firm I work for or any organisation etc.



Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

Do Wurth oil additives work?

My bus number (if any): 2259

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

With the relatively low mileages our preserved buses do, it's difficult to tell what effects any of these additives have.

One of the other point comparing the AEC or Leyland engines against modern engines is that the old engines idle at about 360rpm. Most modern diesels idel at about 850 rpm, so they must be using far more fuel idling!

I had a conversation the other week about the Nederlands Government wanting to introduce a blanket 100km/h speed limti on motorways, having recently raised the limits on some roads to 130km/h from 120 to increase the flow of traffic. there's been no increase in the accident rates on those roads. So when this lates proposals were put, my view is that 130kmh your vehicle will use fuel for an hour to travel 130km. At 100km/h, to travel 130 km will take about 1 hr 20 min, so it will be polluting for 20 minutes longer. It my produce slightly less pollution t the slower speed, but surely the 2 will balance out. Plus the additional congestion caused by going slower will mean everything polluting for longer.

The simply way to cut down pollution on older vehicles is the make sure the valves and guides are good, and the pump and injectors are overhauled. Also make sure the pump timing is spot on. All those things will cut down an awful lot on pollution levels.

My bus number (if any): RML2532

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

Thanks Jack. Please remind me of your role(s) at London Transport.

My bus number (if any): WLT 737 WLT 875 353 CLT

Re: diesel pollution, carbon emissions and bus longevity

Interesting and thought provoking post Sam and some excellent replies too.

This is a subject that I think will become more and more talked about as the whole low emissions subject filters its way into the vintage/classic vehicle preservation world.

Like Sam I am an operator and I have noticed more and more members of the public asking pollution related questions when they see us parked up outside a church or a venue. I am also overhearing many more negative comments along the lines of "these polluting old vehicles should all be banned from the roads" as people walk past us.

As a business owner and someone who relies on generating an income from these old buses I am becoming increasingly concerned about the war on diesel engines; I feel it is only a matter of time before a 'carbon neutral wedding' or a 'carbon neutral event' becomes the fad of choice. And if this becomes the norm it will have a detrimental affect on all Routemaster operators regardless of the engine fitted.

I'm guessing the reason Sam started this thread was because they have had similar experiences in Scotland? And, like me are struggling to come up with a credible reply to these comments.

Personally, I am concerned about how we are killing the planet we live on and I know my vehicles are probably some of the worst polluters on the roads, but I turn a blind eye to this because I know for now the novelty of booking one of my buses out trumps any concernes my clients have about pollution. How long this attitude will last is anyones guess, but I suspect it won't be too long before attitudes change, especially with the likes of Greta Thunberg accusing people from my generation of killing the planet and ruining her future!

Then there is the threat from other towns and cities across the UK implementing their own low emission zones, Birmingham is the next city introduce this in January 2020 and I'm told unlike London Routemasters will not be exempt from paying to enter the city.

My bus number (if any): RM's 471, 765, 1783