Air Quality: In the News: October 2020

Our Senior Air Quality Consultant, James Browne, summaries the latest Air Quality news this month. Including Manchester to receive a new cycle network, an improvement in London’s air quality, a lack of on-street EV charging and the UK’s first hydrogen fuelled train.

Manchester set for new cycle route network

It has been announced that Greater Manchester will soon benefit from a brand-new cycle route network. All 10 districts in the Greater Manchester area will gain access to new routes, the Mayor, Andy Burnham has announced.

The development will incorporate a so called ‘Bee Network’, which will feature a series of upgraded crossings across the Greater Manchester area which will cost £2.2m. In addition to this, about 25 miles of new cycling and walking routes will be delivered next Spring.

Mayor Andy Burnham said, ‘By next summer, we will begin to see the fruits of our labour and the region’s residents will finally have the chance to travel to shops and schools easily and safely without using a car. Today heralds the real start of our cycling and walking story, coincidentally aligning with bike to school week.’

Improvement to London’s Air Quality

According to a new report published by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, London’s air quality has significantly improved since 2016. This is thanks to measures implemented including the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ).

A promising drop in the amount of nitrogen oxide (NO) in secondary schools previously exceeding the legal limit in London delivered a reduction from 455 in 2016 to 14 in 2019. A significant decrease.

Another positive outcome from the report is to do with the Ultra Low Emissions Zone in London. It is thought that the success of the ULEZ will deliver a £5bn cost saving to the NHS, by preventing more than a million hospital admission in London and the surrounding areas over the next 30 years.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: ‘I was elected on a mandate to deliver hard-hitting measures to tackle our toxic air crisis. Today’s report confirms the transformative impact that my policies have had in just four years. ‘I’m pleased that Londoners are breathing cleaner air, that we’re saving the NHS billions of pounds and preventing over a million hospital admissions.’

Lack of on-street charging is preventing EV uptake

A new study has revealed that increased uptake in electric vehicles (EV) is being hampered by a lack of on-street charging points. The study, carried out by facilities company Mitie on their own employees, suggested that, after moving their fleet to EVs, 91% of respondents said they were glad they switched to electric.

Staff on the waiting list for an EV expressed concerns about the current EV charging infrastructure, with 63% admitting that a lack of on-street charge points had made them sceptical about making the switch to electric.

Simon King, director of sustainability and social value, Mitie, said: ‘It’s fantastic to hear that the feedback from our EV drivers has been overwhelmingly positive, with so many colleagues recommending others switch too.”

UK to trial first hydrogen-fuelled train

Trials for the UK’s first ever hydrogen-fuelled train began on September 30. This initiative aims to remove harmful gases produced by the UK’s current train network as hydrogen does not emit any. Hydrogen is a clean fuel that uses a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen to produce water, heat and most importantly, electricity. It is foreseen that hydrogen will eventually replace diesel on the UK’s train fleet.

The new hydrogen prototype train, known as HydroFLEX has been made possible by a £750k grant from the government and an additional £1m from the University of Birmingham and Porterbrook. It is hoped that this technology will be available by 2023 to retrofit existing trains to hydrogen fuel.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘As we continue on our road to a green recovery, we know that to really harness the power of transport to improve our country – and to set a global gold standard – we must truly embed change.'

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