Stagecoach Group is calling for tougher action on air quality to protect local communities following the launch of its Green Week campaign.
As global concern grows over increasing pollution in towns and cities, the company said urgent action was particularly needed by central and local government to tackle the public health emergency.
According to the bus operator, research shows that too many cars and worsening traffic congestion is a major contributor to the 40,000 to 50,000 early deaths a year in the UK from air pollution.
The issue also has a financial cost to the country of over £20billion a year.
To tackle the problem, Stagecoach is calling for: continued investment by public transport operators in cleaner vehicle technologies; tougher tax regimes and use of clean air zones to target vehicles and journeys which contribute most to pollution on a per-passenger basis.
In addition to this, Stagecoach is asking for focused taxpayer support where it will deliver the best value environmental benefit; clearer promotion of switching from cars to public transport as the most effective route to tackling the twin scourges of urban congestion; and air pollution targeted public investment in bus priority measures and better transport interchanges.
Research by Prof David Begg for Greener Journeys has highlighted that across the country the congestion crisis is turning people away from bus travel and putting jobs in the industry and wider economy at risk.
One full double deck bus can remove up to 75 cars from the road – thus freeing up road space, reducing overall emissions levels and helping to improve air quality.
However, Stagecoach says that in order to achieve the kind of reliability and journey times that make buses more attractive to potential customers, operators urgently need input from politicians and local authorities to free up road space for buses, to deliver bus priority measures and to implement bus friendly policies.
Stagecoach Group chief executive Martin Griffiths said: “Public transport has a crucial role to play in helping Britain beat the scourge of traffic congestion, pollution and poor air quality.
“Our cities are clogged with cars and people are literally dying as a result and we urgently need our politicians to take tough action on congestion to free up road space and let buses flourish.
“Our commitment to our environmental responsibility is central to our business and we are continuing to take steps to reduce our carbon footprint as well as working more widely with our partners to protect our environment.
“Green Week is a good chance for us to highlight our key messages around this but our work to tackle the challenge of climate change is something that goes on all year round.”