BUS firms operating in Glasgow have been criticised failing to apply for a £7.89million funding pot aimed at getting vehicles ready for the city's new Low Emission Zone.

Operators are supposed to apply to the fund for money to pay for replacement exhaust systems to be fitted to older buses, bringing emissions up to modern standards.

The total funding would upgrade about 450 buses but has not been applied for by any bus firm in the city and the closing date for applications is Friday.

Gavin Thomson, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This is a disgrace. Glasgow’s major bus companies are clearly more interested in profit than in saving lives.

“Public money has been available for five months to improve air quality on our streets, but it’s not being used.

“Companies seem happy to profit from older buses that continue to belch out toxic fumes on our streets.

“Because of their inaction, there’s been no improvement to air quality, and no change to the huge health impacts suffered from air pollution.

“Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone has already launched, but it gives bus companies years to get their dirty old vehicles off the streets. The Council need to push every bus company that operates in the city to upgrade their fleet.

“This is a public health issue and isn’t being treated seriously. We need cleaner air now, the money is there, the bus companies are sitting on their hands”.

First Bus has complained that the grants only fund a proportion of the costs of upgrading exhausts and are lower than in England.

According to bus operator, the grants only covered 40 per cent of the cost of upgrading exhausts. The remainder would have to be passed on to customers.

Andrew Jarvis, managing director for First Bus in Scotland, said: “First Glasgow are actively engaging with the Scottish Government at the moment to share our concerns over the viability of the scheme especially given comparative retrofit schemes in England and Germany.

“The uncertainty and gap in funding has undoubtedly impacted on our retrofit programme. We need the Scottish Government to support us in this process with full funding in order to meet the criteria and deadlines of their low emissions zones.”

He added: “It is crucial that we all continue to work together in partnership to come up with a solution to this issue which is in the best interests of all involved.

“As a business, we are committed to investing in vehicles with ultra-low emissions that assist with improving air quality. Bus is a big part of the solution to air quality, as well as being a source of some of the emissions.”

McGills Buses, which runs services in Glasgow and elsewhere, did not respond to requests to comment. National Express, which runs Xplore Dundee buses, declined to say whether it was applying for funding.

Get Glasgow Moving campaigner Ellie Harrison said: “This is outrageous behaviour from private bus companies. It’s disgusting that they would delay improving their vehicles, even though the taxpayer is paying for it.

“Unfortunately, this sort of irresponsible behaviour is what we’d expect from an industry that changes routes, hikes up fares, and cuts off working-class communities without any notice. This irresponsible behaviour from bus operators has to stop. Hopefully, the Scottish Government and MSPs will see we need greater transparency of the industry and an option for public ownership of buses.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “We are in constant dialogue with all of our LEZ partners as we look to take the project forward in the most effective way possible.

“Through this dialogue, we will continue to remind partners of the support and resources available to deliver the project, which will bring great environmental and travel benefits to the city.”