A coalition of the country’s largest urban transport authorities have called on the UK Government to make five practical policy changes to help assist them in improving citywide air quality in their regions.
In a letter to the UK Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit, a joint venture between the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to tackle environmental pollution issues, the Urban Transport Group (UTG) has urged the government to make ‘operational’ changes that would help officers tasked with developing and delivering air quality plans on the ground. The UTG is made up of the UK’s seven largest urban transport authorities: Merseytravel, Nexus, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), Transport for London (TfL), Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which together, serve more than 20 million people.
The letter asks for the following five policy changes to be made:
- Highways England (HE) and Network Rail are responsible for significant levels of air pollution in the city regions and they should be required to set out much clearer strategies for meeting their responsibilities in tackling these emissions. The issues include air pollution caused by motorway congestion drifting into population centers; the use of diesel trains in city center railway stations; and changes to motorways and major A roads leading to increases in local traffic;
- Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 should be implemented so that local authorities can enforce moving traffic offences, such as banned turns and the blocking of yellow box junctions, to reduce the idling and stop-start conditions that cause congestion and a build-up of toxic air;
- There should be a long-term plan and consistent funding support for the ‘greening’ of the bus fleet, such as deployment of electric or ultra-low emission vehicles, rather than unpredictable and ad hoc funding pots;
- Provide leadership, and an overarching strategy, for the greening of public service vehicles, such as refuse trucks, ambulances and pool cars or van fleets, together with targeted financial support;
- Make the National Health Service (NHS) part of the solution rather than part of the problem including by requiring the NHS to consult with transport authorities when making decisions on healthcare locations in order to minimize negative impacts on health, the environment and communities.
“City region transport authorities are working hard to improve air quality on tight timescales and on tight budgets. If we are to hit these targets we need the Government to work more closely with us to crack some of the practical obstacles that stand in our way,” explained Jonathan Bray, director of the UTG. “We believe that by making these relatively straight forward and common sense policy changes, Government can provide vital assistance to those who are working at the sharp end of our efforts to reduce toxic emissions from urban transport as rapidly as possible. Our operational asks also complement the higher-level strategic asks around funding and fiscal measures which are being pursued at the political level by city region leaders.”