Greener buses headed for city fighting air pollution

Athens is to refresh its bus fleet with the purchase of more than 500 new vehicles – many of them running on natural gas.

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The investment covers a quarter of the Greek capital’s buses. It includes 200 vehicles fuelled by natural gas and 320 running on diesel.

Powered by gas and diesel

Athens, at the centre of a metropolitan area with more than three million people, is home to Greece’s largest mass transit system. The area’s main operator of buses is Ethel (Thermal Bus Company), with a network of 300 bus lines and a fleet of some 2 150 buses – over 410 of which already run on compressed natural gas (CNG). It rightly claims to have one of Europe’s largest fleets of CNG-powered buses.

Natural-gas buses emit fewer air pollutants than conventional diesel buses. That is a major advantage in a city once famous for its high levels of air pollution.

Ethel will acquire 520 new buses for its fleet. They are partly funded by the EU under this major bridge project and an earlier project from the 2000 to 2006 programme period.

Less pollution

Forty percent (200) of the new buses come with engines that run on natural gas, an increasingly popular choice in cities across Europe. Their EEV (enhanced environmentally-friendly vehicle) engines currently meet the EU’s strictest exhaust emission standards for internal combustion engines.

The CNG-powered buses can be refilled at the company’s two dedicated CNG distribution stations, located at depots in Anthousa and Ano Liosia. The former supplies natural gas to as many as 36 buses an hour. All the new CNG buses will be 12 m long, with air conditioning as standard and special facilities for people with reduced mobility.

The 320 new diesel buses include the latest Euro IV or Euro V engines, which means they will produce far less air pollution than the buses they replace. This total includes 100 articulated vehicles, 18 m in length, and 220 shorter midi-type vehicles. All will be considered officially integrated into the company’s fleet after either one year of operation or after covering 80 000 km, as stipulated in the purchase contract.

Together, the new buses will make a substantial contribution to the modernisation of Athens’ urban transport network. Their cleaner engines, especially those powered by gas, should also help the city tackle its chronic air pollution.

Total and EU funding

The project “New buses acquisitions from ETHEL” has a total eligible budget of EUR 56 828 800, with the EU’s Cohesion Fund contributing EUR 48 304 500 for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.


Draft date

10/07/2012