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

A commitment to civil debate image

A commitment to civil debate

Cllr Arooj Shah has been the target of recent threats and harassment. Leaders from all parties in Oldham have now come together to add their signature to a ‘politics, not personalities’ pledge, she explains.
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Local Highway Officer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£22,183 - £32,234
The Local Highway Officer role is based in the Highway Service. Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Director of Children & Families

North Lincolnshire Council
We are looking for an effective, resilient Director of Children & Families. North Lincolnshire
Recuriter: North Lincolnshire Council

Strategy & Commissioning Manager Health, Wellbeing & Self-care

Warwickshire County Council
£70,573.00 - £77,999.00
If you are a dynamic individual, with a strong background in public health and social care strategy and commissioning, we’d like to hear from you! Warwick, Warwickshire
Recuriter: Warwickshire County Council

Environmental Health/Environmental Protection Officer - Noise

Tower Hamlets London Borough Council
£41,607.00 - £44,598.00
This post attracts an essential car user allowance. The post holder is able to take part in the Council's flexible working scheme. Tower Hamlets, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Tower Hamlets London Borough Council

Director of Business Development

North Yorkshire County Council
50-60k + relocation allowance
We are looking for a dynamic and innovative person to help us deliver our ambitious new strategic objectives set out in... North Yorkshire
Recuriter: North Yorkshire County Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue