Chris Ames 06 May 2021

Pollution fears rise as traffic surges in Scottish cities

Pollution fears rise as traffic surges in Scottish cities image

New data shows that traffic levels in Edinburgh and Glasgow have exceeded pre-pandemic levels, adding to fears about air quality following delays to Scotland’s planned Low Emission Zones (LEZs).

The data, sourced by Siemens Mobility Limited in partnership with HERE Technologies, shows that daily traffic in Edinburgh is 7% higher in comparison to February 2020, with Glasgow recording traffic levels 4% higher than before the pandemic.

Siemens said that with the Scottish Government easing COVID-19 restrictions with plans to open up the country further in the coming weeks, there are concerns about further increases in air pollution.

The findings show that the Winter 2021 lockdown had a far smaller impact on traffic compared to the first lockdown in Spring 2020.

Traffic levels in the two cities were more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels in February 2021. In contrast, the first lockdown saw traffic levels more than halve in both cities.

Siemens pointed out that both Edinburgh and Glasgow have delayed the implementation of LEZs, the Scottish version of Clean Air Zones.

The Scottish Government originally planned to have them in place in the two cities, as well as Aberdeen and Dundee, by the end of 2020. However, following a ‘pause’ last year a new timescale was set for 'between February and May 2022'.

Wilke Reints, Siemens' managing director intelligent traffic systems, said: ‘It’s been well documented that the COVID-19 pandemic had an almost instant positive effect on air quality. However, this latest data shows that levels have quickly bounced back, despite stringent restrictions in Scotland.

‘This raises a concern as to the potential increase in traffic and associated emissions with cities reporting air quality levels at least comparable to, or in this case worse than, pre-lockdown levels.’

He added: 'The traffic levels documented in Edinburgh and Glasgow surpass pre-COVID levels and this follows a similar trend across the UK. Air quality is the most significant environmental risk to human health and both cities must continue to address this problem by continuing to progress Clean Air Zone plans to protect the health of the public.’

Glasgow Council introduced its LEZ at the end of 2018 but this first phase only applies to local service buses.

It has said that while the current indicative timetable has not been finalised ‘it does represent a clear commitment by all partners to work as quickly as possible to introduce LEZs at the earliest possible time’.

The council has said the new plans mean it will not be possible for Phase 2 to apply to all vehicles by 31 December 2022 as originally planned, because LEZs in Scotland can only be enforced after a compulsory grace period of at least one year after its introduction.

‘Instead, Phase 2 will be moved out to 2023, with a more detailed, revised timetable for enforcement to be published as soon as possible.’

This article first appeared on Transport Network

Skate parks are not the only fruit image

Skate parks are not the only fruit

On Go Skateboarding Day, Susannah Walker asks councils and their leisure and park departments to think differently about what facilities they provide for teenagers.
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Interim Head of Fostering

Tile Hill
Negotiable day rate
We are working with a local authority client in London who is looking for an Interim Head of Fostering, the local authority was last inspected as “... London (Central), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Tile Hill

Interim Head of Children in Care and Care Leavers

Tile Hill
Negotiable day rate
We are working with a local authority client in London who is looking for an Interim Head of Children in Care and Care Leavers, the local authority... London (Central), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Tile Hill

Head of Regeneration and Economy

City of York Council
£59,593 - £68,094
York is a wonderful place to live and work and it is quite rightly famous across the globe. York, North Yorkshire / Hybrid
Recuriter: City of York Council

Clinical Lead, North Essex

Essex County Council
Clinical Lead, North EssexPermanent, Full TimeUp to £57,869 per annumLocation
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Assistant Director Legal,&Governance/Monitoring Officer

Rochdale BC
£70,340 - £81,589
The Assistant Director role has breadth of responsibility beyond legal services incorporating Constitutional and Democratic Services Rochdale, Greater Manchester
Recuriter: Rochdale BC

Partner Content

Circular highways is a necessity not an aspiration – and it’s within our grasp

Shell is helping power the journey towards a circular paving industry with Shell Bitumen LT R, a new product for roads that uses plastics destined for landfill as part of the additives to make the bitumen.

Support from Effective Energy Group for Local Authorities to Deliver £430m Sustainable Warmth Funded Energy Efficiency Projects

Effective Energy Group is now offering its support to the 40 Local Authorities who have received a share of the £430m to deliver their projects on the ground by surveying properties and installing measures.

Pay.UK – the next step in Bacs’ evolution

Dougie Belmore explains how one of the main interfaces between you and Bacs is about to change.