UK towns and cities given rare insight into air quality


Towns and cities in the UK can now see how their air quality is affected month-by-month when there are significantly reduced numbers of vehicles on the roads. Unique air quality analysis reports have been provided by Ricardo, a leading environmental, engineering and strategic consultancy. Data from the resultant analysis has been compiled into dynamic online reports, which give more than 100 of Ricardo’s local authority customers throughout England and Scotland powerful insight into a novel set of figures.

“The lockdowns gave us a unique opportunity to analyse the extent of air quality improvements that could be achieved by national and local governments if large numbers of polluting motor vehicles can be taken off the roads,” says Paul Willis, air quality business area manager at Ricardo. “I’m really proud of the innovative data modelling and analysis that my team has put together to help our customers understand what their ongoing air quality measurements programs are telling them in these unprecedented times. We have received very positive feedback from our customers about the reports.”

In York, many of the monitoring stations reported monthly reductions in nitrogen dioxide of more than 10 µgm3 compared to those expected. Over the full year of 2020, overall NO2 levels were down by more than 20%.

“The COVID-19 lockdown provided an unexpected and unique opportunity to study York’s air quality in the absence of normal traffic levels,” says Andrew Gillah, York’s principal environmental protection officer (Air Quality). “Ricardo’s bespoke analysis has provided invaluable information with respect to the potential impacts of the lockdown across City of York Council’s area.”

All of the reports have been published on Air Quality England or on the Scottish Government’s Air Quality in Scotland website. The figures will be used to inform future policies and encourage behaviour change.

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Lauren is a regular contributor to Traffic Technology International (TTi) and a freelance technical journalist. Over the past 15 years, she has worked on a wide variety of B2B publications and websites, including a stint as deputy editor of Traffic Technology International from 2014-2016. She has a degree in English from the University of Exeter. Lauren is mum to two busy little girls. She is always in demand!