An upgrade for22 vehicles operated by bus and coach hire company Belle Vue Manchester is being carried out as part of the region’s move to become a Clean Air Zone.

The Manchester Clean Air Zone is scheduled to launch by the end of May 2022 with the aim of improving air quality by lowering emissions from commercial and passenger vehicles.

Vans, buses, coaches, taxis and lorries will have to pay a daily charge if they fail to meet emission standards.

Over £120m in government funding has been secured to help operators upgrade to cleaner, compliant vehicles so they can travel in the Greater Manchester-wide zone without incurring the daily charge.

Belle Vue was the first operator to apply for grants from Transport for Greater Manchester to meet the cost of retrofitting vehicles which required the work, and was the first to be made an offer of funding.

Twenty-one Scania double-deckers school buses and one Mercedes Tourismo coach operated by Belle Vue are being retrofitted with new exhaust systems, at a total cost of £350,000.

Belle Vue, which is based at Discovery Park, Stockport, carries two million passengers a year and is the largest education transport provider in Greater Manchester. As well as school bus services, the company provides transport to corporate and social groups via its diverse fleet.

Managing director Phil Hitchen said: “It’s essential that our cities have cleaner air, and updating vehicles with exhaust systems that meet new emission targets is absolutely necessary.

“We’re extremely grateful to Transport for Greater Manchester for providing the necessary funding for retrofits to 22 vehicles in our fleet.

“It’s an important undertaking for our business, as it will ensure that these vehicles are as modern as the rest of our fleet, which already includes a significant number of hybrid buses.

“Diesel vehicles in our fleet have AdBlue fluid added to their engines to reduce emissions, and for a decade we have had a tracking system in place to better manage the performance of our drivers by assessing their acceleration, braking, idling and cornering.

“This improves efficiency, and optimal driving reduces emissions and contributes towards cleaner air.

“Our company is committed to providing passenger transport services that are safer, cleaner and greener and in line with local government strategy.”

Megan Black, TfGM’s head of logistics and environment, said: “The Greater Manchester authorities, in finalising the Clean Air Plan, have shown their commitment to tackling air pollution, which is the biggest environmental public health issue facing the city-region and contributes to around 1,200 deaths in Greater Manchester alone each year.

“Retrofitting is one of the solutions funded by the Clean Air Plan. We are delighted that operators like Belle Vue are taking advantage of the funding to retrofit their fleets to ensure their vehicles are compliant with the Clean Air Zone requirements.

“GM has secured a £120+ million fund from government for GM vehicle upgrades, and we want to support businesses and vehicle owners with advice on the options for them.

“Our Clean Air GM website has an indicative vehicle checker tool and we are encouraging people to find out more information about the time, money and options they have to upgrade.”

The Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan is being implemented as part of its response to the government’s air quality strategy. It forms a major part of policies planned to help the region become carbon neutral by 2038.