Monday, May 8, 2017

From Road Haulage Freight Group to London Mayor - No-one Happy with Government Anti-Pollution Plans

Criticism from Every Side as Consultation Gets Under Way
Shipping News Feature
UK – Everyone in the country has the chance to comment on the government's plan to improve air quality by responding to the consultation 'Improving Air Quality: reducing nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities' which will run until June 15, and there has been a chorus of disapproval already from such diverse bodies as the Road Haulage Association (RHA), representing the road freight lobby, to the London mayor and assorted Trades Unions. The government was ordered by the Court to publish a plan by the end of July after failing to delay such a move by claiming the election would get in the way.

For its part, the RHA says that the devil will be in the detail. The implementation of clean air zones will be in the hands of local authorities and the RHA believes that the problem is one of transport infrastructure, whilst the real costs involved are being ignored. RHA chief executive Richard Burnett commented:

“While local authorities have been ordered to implement Clean Air Zones across the country, there is still a failure to commit to tackle the local congestion and traffic management issues that underpin the problem locally. Local authorities that have been given the responsibility to implement this, they need to focus on hot spots, especially where buses and taxis get stuck in jams.

“Today’s report indicates that applying the scrappage scheme to all pre-Euro 6 diesel cars and vans in the UK in 2019 (eight million cars and two million vans, with grant levels of between £6,000 and £6,500 respectively) could cost the Government £60 billion. With the price of a new, Euro-6 HGV costing upwards of £80,000, the same scheme cannot realistically, be applied to road haulage operators; the industry sector responsible for the movement of 85% of the UK economy.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan did not mince his words when it came to voicing an opinion on the subject. The mayor, who has pushed anti-pollution plans further than ever before with the proposed Ultra Low Emission Zone for London, said:

“The government's plans are woefully inadequate and would still leave Britain with illegally polluted and unsafe air for at least another decade. This is a matter of life and death and 40,000 people every year die as a result of toxic air. Despite this, the government is simply unwilling to take the bold action required to fix it.”

One area particularly affected by vehicle emissions is South London, and Battersea and Wandsworth Trades Union Council (BWTUC) was quick to criticise the latest news saying Putney High Street is reportedly the most polluted street in Europe with some parts showing over twice the legal limit of 40ug/m3 for nitrogen dioxide. A local newspaper, the Wandsworth Guardian, recently claimed that 29 schools in the borough were inside areas exceeding the safe legal limit for pollutants.

The union claims the issue is one of the workplace and provides funding for awareness raising initiatives like the Greener Jobs Alliance training modules on Air Quality, due to be launched later this month. Speaking of the government’s proposed plans Graham Petersen, spokesperson for BWTUC, called on local council support, saying:

”If this document represents their vision of how the public will be protected from air pollution it is no surprise they wanted to keep it under wraps. Wandsworth Council’s own Air Quality Action Plan identified the importance of a campaign ‘to national government towards a non-diesel economy’ as a priority action. If they are serious about this then the Council should join us in condemning these inadequate proposals.”

Photo: The bad old days were set to return. This shot of the smog in 1950’s London shows a woman leading her driver’s car through the thick mist of polluted air.