ELECTRIC buses could soon be taking to the streets of Southampton as part of the drive to improve air quality.

Go South Coast, which operates Bluestar and Unilink, is exploring the possibility of replacing existing buses in the city with a greener alternative.

Civic chiefs hosted a visit by Go South Coast representatives, who took them for a trip in an electric double-decker.

The new leader of the city council, Cllr Dan Fitzhenry, said: “It was great to meet the team to see their amazing bus in action.

"Southampton is open for business again and it’s good to hear bus usage is now recovering as a safe way to get around the city.

“New technologies and electric vehicles will be integral to our plans as we Get Southampton Moving and we look forward to taking those discussions forward with our partners.”

Andrew Wickham is managing director of both Bluestar and Unilink.

He said: "We were delighted to demonstrate this British-built ADL Enviro400 electric bus and are looking forward to working with the council to gain support for future sustainable transport in the city.

“We have received an excellent response from those travelling on this bus, with many appreciating our determination to help lower emissions across the area.

“Buses - especially electric buses - are the perfect solution for this.

"As we come out of lockdown we have a wonderful opportunity, alongside the local authority, to help change Southampton’s air quality for the better over the coming years."

Earlier this year Wiltshire-based bus operator Salisbury Reds, part of the Go South Coast group, took delivery of three electric single-deckers.

Powered by a 330kWh electric motor and iron phosphase batteries, each vehicle can cover 160 miles on a single charge, saving 32 tonnes of CO2 a year.

Poor air quality in Southampton has been a major issue for several years.

In August 2020 Friends of the Earth published a list of ten places where the average level of nitrogen dioxide exceeded 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air in 2018, the latest year for which data was available.

The average must be below 40 micrograms to meet government air quality targets.

Earlier this year the British Lung Foundation said almost 100 schools, colleges and nurseries in Southampton were in areas where levels of fine particulate matter, the most harmful type of air pollution, exceeded the limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

Traffic fumes are a major source of the pollutant, as well as industrial emissions and wood burners.