A NEWLY converted electric bus is on duty in York, in a world-first project to help cut air pollution in the city.

A City Sightseeing open top bus has been converted from its old diesel engine to use new electric technology that will cut 33 tonnes of CO2 pumped into the city centre air each year, along with 535kg of harmful nitrous oxide.

The conversion was backed by a £75,000 grant from a special Department for Transport's clean bus fund after City of York Council's low emissions officer Derek McCreadie persuaded civil servants that the project could be a new technology which could benefit the whole of the UK.

The technology has seen the 2.1 tonne diesel engine removed and replaced with lithium ion batteries - similar to those used in mobile phones - powerful enough to keep the tour bus running all day.

City council transport chief Tony Clarke said: "We are really excited about this as we have been trying to remove pollution from the city centre for a long period of time.

"We are converting the tour buses, which run round the city centre where we have the worst air quality problems."

The tour buses, which travel around the inner city all day, contribute much more heavily to air quality problems in the city than the service buses which travel straight through the city, he added.

Bus company Transdev runs the City Sightseeing buses in York, and its managing director Alex Hornby said: "We think this positions the City Sightseeing business in a different light.

"The project is great news for our customers, the local environment and all those who reside in and visit the great city of York. As well as offering zero emissions, the bus offers a beautifully smooth ride and is refreshingly quiet, ideal for our guided tour operations in the city."

The new bus will also save the company £20,000 a year in operating costs.

The electric sightseeing bus will now run in York alongside the 12 fully electric Park and Ride buses, and the council has won another £475,000 from the DfT to convert five more City Sightseeing buses.

It is the country's first fully electric double decker bus, and means York is the first of more than 100 cities where City Sightseeing operates to have environmentally friendly low emission vehicles.