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The Current State of UK Air Pollution

City Buses

MPs have labelled the current state of air pollution in the UK, that contributes to roughly 40,000 deaths per year, a ‘national health emergency’. This has come after an unprecedented joint inquiry, made up of four committees of MPs, rules that the car industry must pay millions of pounds towards the UKs toxic air crisis under the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

A recent report from the environment, health, transport and environmental audit has seen that these committees have called for the government to stop putting the publics health at risk from the rise of air pollution. Within this report, it is estimated that the current state of the air pollution in the UK, costs the economy an estimated £20bn.

With the government now losing three court cases for failing to provide a satisfying plan that is considered sufficient to tackle Britain’s toxic air. The UK is failing to comply with EU law that sets out limits for air pollution, and few countries perform as poorly as the UK in terms of the number of areas that are non-compliant. Without major policy changes, most of the UK will remain in breach of legal limits for air pollution into 2025 and beyond.

Towards the end of 2017, World Health Organisation testing found that the city of Glasgow is one of the most polluted areas within the UK, having poorer quality of air than London, Manchester and Cardiff.

How Glasgow has reacted

This has led to the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, announcing that Glasgow’s first low emission zone is planned to begin by the end of 2018, with Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh scheduled for 2020.

These plans will see the Glasgow city centre zone initially crack down on bus pollution produced, with all vehicles to be compliant with the proposed restricted emissions in the city by the end of 2022.

However, these plans have been met with some negative backlash, as campaigners have hit out at the proposals made. Friends of the Earth have branded the plans as the ‘No Ambition Zone’, stating the proposals would only apply to 20% of the buses when it is first introduced. To find out more information regarding clean air, and low emission zones and how they are already benefitting London, please read our blog titled, ‘Building a Cleaner Environment’, located here.

Latest manufacturing technology has introduced a development of the London “Double-Decker”, a new interpretation of the traditional red buses that are a feature of the extreme traffic density in London. The technology used on these buses uses a small Diesel engine with electric storage through a lithium ion battery pack. The use of a 1.9-litre Diesel instead of the typical 7.0-litre engine in a traditional bus demonstrates the possible advantages of serial hybrids in extremely traffic-dense environments. Based on a London test cycle, a reduction in CO2 emissions of 31% and fuel savings in the range of 40% have been demonstrated, compared with an “Euro-4” compliant bus.

Another Friends of the Earth associate has stated that the plans for Glasgow need to drastically improve to ensure that future plans are a success, explaining that, ‘What Glasgow does also sets the benchmark for the LEZs to come in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh in 2020, so it is critical to set the bar high’.

This is analysed in further detail, ‘A LEZ should keep polluting vehicles out of the most polluted places. This plan is even worse than initially envisaged, not only will the Zone fail to catch dirty vans and lorries, but it will only apply to a tiny fraction of buses. A Low Emission Zone which has no signs to mark it, no new cameras to catch offenders and continues to allow almost every dirty vehicle into the city centre, is not a Low Emission Zone’.

Councillor Anna Richardson, convener for sustainability and carbon reduction, said, ‘While we continue to work with the bus industry to improve services – services which are vital to the lives of Glaswegians – it’s recognised that the introduction of a LEZ needs to be proportionate and managed in such a way that ambition and practicality can be balanced’.

Richardson also states, ‘That is why the initial phase of the LEZ will address local buses through Traffic Regulation Conditions set by the Traffic Commissioner. Buses will be expected to meet Euro VI emission standard by December 2022. All other vehicles will also have to be compliant by that date, so we will be engaging widely with residents and businesses to ensure that everyone is aware of and prepared for the LEZ’.

How can WJF contribute

After working with Eminox on its retrofitting programme for roughly four years, and currently on their long-term contract with Transport for London (TFL), WJF Technical Support LTD are committed to helping local authorities reach set targets for low emissions. We now have highly trained technicians able to diagnose and rectify faults using the latest plug-in technology on projects including Transport for London (TFL) – Green Corridors, Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) and Clean Air Zones (CAZ).