Capital streets among most polluted in country

Research published this week by Friends of the Earth Scotland has named the most polluted streets in Scotland over the last 12 months.

Three Edinburgh streets – St John’s Road, Queensferry Street and Gorgie Road – were in the top 20 most polluted streets for Nitrogen Dioxide.  Both Salamander Street and, again, Queensferry Road, featured in the top 20 most polluted for particulate matter.

All of the Edinburgh roads highlighted in the research are major arterial routes to and from the city which suffer from major congestion problems particularly during rush hour.  The mix of cars, buses and HGV vehicles is creating a real problem that could impact the health of people living and working along these routes.

Addressing congestion and the pollution associated with it is not a straightforward matter and requires an overarching approach to transport in the city that accounts for a range of factors.  A key challenge is getting people out of their cars for shorter journeys and using more sustainable alternatives including public transport and active travel.

Earlier this month, the Council agreed its new Local Transport Strategy for 2014-2019 following extensive consultation over the last year.  Significant developments in the strategy include council support for a move to fully integrated ticketing on public transport, action to deliver the goals of the Active Travel Action Plan and a process to develop detailed options for controlling emission levels during 2014.

Effective planning is a crucial aspect of this process to ensure that future development in the city takes account of the impact of transport – with adequate facilities to encourage active transport and integrate developments with public transport options.  At a planning briefing last week I raised this issue with City planners who briefed MSPs and MPs about the city’s planning priorities.

The emission figures from Friends of the Earth show that the Council has a long way to go to deliver its vision for a transport system that is the greenest, healthiest and most accessible in northern Europe and I will be continuing to argue for improvements to our bus, walking and cycling networks.

Before Christmas MSPs and Councillors were given an update on progress with the tram project by Transport for Edinburgh.  One of the issues we discussed was integrating the tram with other  modes of transport – including car and cycle users.   We also discussed the improvements in real-time information which make it easy for bus users with smartphones to know when their bus is arriving or buy tickets on the go.   I believe this will make bus use much more attractive as people find the bus apps online.  However, there’s still a need for real-time information at bus stops as many people, particular older people still don’t have access to smartphones and tablets.