Edinburgh set to fail on air pollution

The Scottish capital is likely to miss its air quality targets after failing to explore the possibility of a congestion charge or low emission zone.

According to the latest predictions, Edinburgh is off-target and the city council does not have the funds to tackle the problem.

While Edinburgh is among the less-polluted of Europe’s capitals, the city centre has a number of choke points.

The EU expects these to have been tackled by 2010 when air quality targets become mandatory.

Those who fail to reach their targets will face stiff financial penalties until they get can get their house in order.

Scottish academics specialising in pollution and traffic have advised the city council that it’s decision to throw out plans for a London-style congestion charge in February 2005 may have been unwise.

The direct benefits to air quality of such a scheme would have put the city on track and the revenue it raised could have been used to make public transport a more attractive prospect.

Now environmental experts from Edinburgh University and Napier University are calling for an urgent roll out of a low emissions zone, along similar lines as those proposed for York and London.

While air quality in Edinburgh is improving, the rate at which nitrogen dioxide is being cut is currently not fast enough to meet the 2010 targets.

Cllr Andrew Burns, Edinburgh City Council’s transport leader, was unavailable for comment but is quoted in the Scotsman as saying the city has no plans for congestion charging and is nowhere near a position where it might be able to implement a low emission zone.

In the city’s defence he said the problems were localised and the planned introduction of a tram service would improve air quality in the centre of town.

by Sam Bond

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