RAC sets out air pollution battle plan

RAC sets out air pollution battle plan
As the UK marks its very first National Clean Air Day, the RAC has outlined a range of measures it believes will set us on the right track to improved air quality.

Across the country, councils and authorities are encouraging people to get involved in initiatives geared towards raising awareness around pollution.

RAC public affairs manager Nick Lyes says poor air quality in many UK towns and cities can be reversed, but there is no single answer. Rather, he points to a series of solutions put on the table, which can work in conjunction to steadily bring about change.

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Primarily, Mr Lyes says focus must be placed on the heaviest polluters – those doing the highest mileage in the worst-affected areas.

Ageing taxi and bus fleets must be placed within a programme for upgrade; retrofitted or replaced with more contemporary, clean air technology. Steps are already being made in this regard, with London taxis gearing up for a switch to electric models by the start of next year.

“There are also other solutions that could have a very real positive benefit to improving air quality – councils for instance already have powers to introduce no idling zones,” Mr Lyes explains.

“If every driver was first encouraged and then mandated to switch their engine off when in congestion, our urban areas could immediately benefit from cleaner air.”

Looking ahead further, there should be an increasingly concerted push to encourage and incentivise all drivers to switch cleaner vehicles, he adds – noting the already-tabled options of reduced taxation, a scrappage scheme, or an extension to plug-in grants.

Earlier this year, the Mayor of London Sadiq Kahn announced that an online emissions checker is to launch in the autumn – acting as a ‘cleaner car checker’ to help restore new car buyers’ faith in major manufacturers, after much-publicised emissions testing scandals.

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Other steps can be taken through changes in planning and infrastructure, particularly in relation to improving traffic flow.

Mr Lyes points out that better sequencing of traffic lights could be employed to reduce congestion and therefore air pollution, at a time when engines are performing least well and emitting more.

“Councils should also look at replacing speed humps with speed cushions where safe to do so,” he added. “This would help reduce sharp braking and acceleration and encourage smoother driving which is better for the environment. Perhaps there is also a role for promoting the use of telematics which can also help promote smoother driving.”

RAC data suggests that private motorists are seriously concerned about air quality in towns and cities. Over half of those surveyed for its latest Report on Motoring are in favour of extra charges being placed on the most-polluting vehicles.

Copyright Press Association 2017. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.