DIESEL vehicles should not be banned in Bolton despite its poor air quality, according to a former Government transport advisor.

David Begg, who was chairman of the Government's Commission For Integrated Transport, has warned Bolton Council that a blanket ban would have a 'devastating impact'.

The authority was identified as one of 29 councils as having roads breaching legal pollution levels in a report on air quality in July.

Mr Begg, speaking as part of the Greener Journeys coalition, said: "While local government rightly try to take dirty diesel vehicles off the streets, there is a danger they will demonise and penalise a new generation of independently-tested clean diesel buses that are in fact part of the solution, not the problem, to excessive air pollution.

"We must be aware of unintended consequences of waging war on diesel, and avoid tarring these incredibly clean buses with the same brush as the toxic car fleet on our roads today. Instead, we need to tackle the older diesel cars and vans that are clogging up our streets.

"If buses are viewed as the problem, and not integral to the solution, then the unintended consequence will be more polluting cars on the road and poorer air quality."

Oxford and Cambridge are two of the local authorities which have announced a ban on all diesel vehicles, including buses.

But a spokesman from the Greener Journeys campaign claims a ban could lead to a loss in eight out of 10 bus services.

They also claimed social deprivation would increase by nearly a third and that the latest generation of clean diesel buses delivers a 95 per cent reduction in harmful emissions.

Bolton Council has until March next year to publish draft plans to address the problem.

Claire Haigh, chief executive of Greener Journeys, said: "Britain’s streets are clogged with high polluting diesel cars which are causing a public health emergency and costing tens of thousands of lives each year.

"If local authorities are serious about tackling air pollution, they must put this new generation of clean British diesel buses, and buses retrofitted to the same low-emission standard, front and centre of their plans.

"Not only are the latest diesel buses cleaner than diesel cars, but taking cars off the road would also help reduce congestion as a fully loaded double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road.

"Furthermore, putting buses at the centre of the air quality strategy would support UK manufacturing as at least 80 per cent of urban buses sold in the UK are built in the UK, compared with just 13 per cent of new cars.”

Greener Journeys is a campaign dedicated to encouraging people to make more sustainable travel choices.

It is a coalition of the UK’s leading public transport organisations, user groups and supporters.

It aims to reduce CO2 emissions from transport by encouraging people to switch some of their car journeys to bus journeys.