The Devil Makes Work For Engine Idling Hands

The Devil Makes Work For Engine Idling Hands

18 Sep 2023 Posted By Joe Scotting

Idling engines cost money, damage coaches and the environment, and call the viability of coach tourism to popular destinations into question.

Well-used coach parking slots in London and at other tourist destinations will be under threat if drivers continue to idle engines while waiting for passengers.

There are many reasons why drivers do this. Old habits certainly die hard and there is an urban myth that an engine uses less diesel idling than it does restarting.

Other reasons can include a desire to maintain saloon temperatures at a comfortable level, and simple forgetfulness: modern coaches are so good in terms of noise and vibration, and the engine is so far away from the driver that it’s actually possible to simply forget to switch the thing off when parked.

But the truth is that most of these excuses really aren’t valid. And those who use them are causing serious reputational damage to the coach industry as well as jeopardising parking places in some key locations for coach tourism.

Central London is at the eye of the storm, says Andy Warrender, operations manager at RHA Coaches. His attention is currently focussed on five coach parking spaces at Tothill Street, which is an ideal location for drop-offs and pick-ups of passengers visiting Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.

Londoners are more conscious of local air quality issues than ever before, and ironically this may well be because the overall air quality is much improved with older vehicles heavily constrained.

Would anyone have even noticed the exhaust fumes from a few coaches in the days when every black cab was accompanied by a colour co-ordinated cloud of black fumes, and AEC smokemasters dominated London Transport’s bus fleet?

“Two months ago, RHA Coaches and other industry stakeholders were summoned to a meeting with Westminster City Council and told in no uncertain terms that complaints about coaches waiting on Tothill Street with engines idling were jeopardising the future of the five coach parking bays there,” Warrender says.

A sixth bay has already been closed to allow the installation of security barriers, and other parking bays on the Embankment, Blackfriars, and Horseferry Road together with coach parks in Warwick Road, Vauxhall Bridge and in Tooley Street near the Tower of London, and elsewhere, have also been casualties of everything from urban regeneration to cycle superhighways.

“There is now intense competition for kerbside space for all kinds of uses, and that increases pressure to close coach parking spaces. We’ve lost maybe 100 spaces in 20 years,” Andy reports.

“We have asked Westminster Council for further evidence and data on coaches idling unnecessarily, and we look forward to working with the council on this once it’s available.

Regardless of this, the perceptions won’t go away if they are being reinforced by idling coaches, and the threat of closure is a real one.”

The Horseferry Road closures were directly attributed to unnecessary engine idling.

Operators sending coaches into London need to remind their drivers of the need to avoid idling when parked, Andy says.

“It wastes fuel. You can debate the exact amount, but I’ve seen figures as high as eight litres of diesel an hour,” he says.

“The argument that it uses less fuel to run the engine than it does to restart it is simply wrong.

“It’s also counter-productive and harmful to the coach itself. If the objective is to warm the saloon, then remember that an idling Euro VI engine just doesn’t generate enough surplus heat to do that. And the low exhaust temperature of the idling engine means that the particulate filter will start to clog up because it can’t get hot enough to burn the soot off. You can also get urea crystallisation in the AdBlue injector/ mixer as exhaust temperature falls.”

And it’s not just a ‘London problem’. Increasingly, residents and councils elsewhere are picking up on the issue: As Andy points out, coach idling has also been used to justify parking constraints in the Cotswolds tourist honeypot of Bourton-on-the-Water, and other areas where coaches congregate in large numbers.

It’s an issue that can only expand its profile as environmental sensitivities increase. Engine idling is an outdated habit that the industry needs to eliminate

Andy says: “If we are to stop the rot in terms of the loss of parking spaces, and possibly open up some more to cope with the welcome increased demand for coach tourism, then we have to ensure that our image is as clean and green as possible.

The fact is that the coach is arguably the most environmentally-friendly form of transport across road, rail and air, but it’s difficult for us to make that argument convincingly if people are confronted with the sight of a row of coaches needlessly running their engines while parked up.”

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