Banning high-polluting vehicles – is it worth it?

Not a week goes by without some sort of story that proposes a ban on some sort of vehicle as a way of tackling air quality issues. In addition to work on Clean Air Zones such as a new one proposed for Portsmouth, government committees have been having their say, recommending that the ban on selling new diesel and petrol cars needs to be brought forward to 2035, from its current date of 2040.

As we have stated before on this blog, our preference is that we should not seek to extend bans or significantly increase the number of new ones in the short term. Or at least not only do that. Whilst always well intentioned, the reality is that even where they work well, there will always be vehicles and emissions that require management in order to mitigate their impacts on local communities.

To be honest, we are not particularly strongly pro or anti banning. Our preferred approach to work collaboratively with a number of partners across different sectors to achieve reductions in air quality. But our end goal is to improve air quality, so in some respects the mechanism for achieving this isn’t that important. However, we feel that we may have a good example of how we have achieved this.

At Queen’s Square in Croydon, we worked with a number of partners, including the London Borough of Croydon, to track a range of pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, PM1, CO, O3, SO2, NO2) and noise generated by the construction of this new development. A new creative quarter for the area. And one that doesn’t want to get off to a start where it pollutes the local area.

The purpose of this project was simple. Could such a tool be integrated into future construction logistics compliance, after establishing a response plan for managing high levels of noise and air pollution exposure for local residents? The answer was yes of course.

The resulting project captured baseline noise and air quality information of these pollutants at eight locations around the development site to provide full coverage of assets entering and leaving. From this, those working on the site could understand where emission breaches had providing the main contractor at the site with information on how their site is performing and which fleets and vehicles warrant closer inspection or drive behavior, such as leaving engines idling. With real-time continuous monitoring, we provided Croydon with live alert warnings when emission breaches were imminent.

But you may be thinking…well we could just do all this by just banning the most polluting vehicles, right? Wrong. Banning vehicles may achieve your air quality objectives. But we are doing this and something more. We are giving a greater level of understanding to a local authority who wants to manage air quality events when they do occur. As they will still occur under banning. That, is something worth doing.