The impact of air pollution on land and housing close to non-motorway roads is a relatively straightforward problem to tackle, given that there are a hand full of solutions available including traffic calming devices and traffic diversion. However, pollution from motorway traffic is notoriously difficult to regulate.

Dr Singh from Enstech, a specialist air quality company based in Cambridge, is proposing a joint industry sponsorship study that will look into ways of mitigating the effects of motorway pollution.

Motorway pollution is a particular problem for local authorities that are required to assess levels of traffic emissions within their area. If air quality objectives are not likely to be met, local authorities have to declare Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs). There is also a requirement to prepare an action plan, which explains how they intend to achieve the air quality objectives. This is very difficult for motorway traffic emissions since there are currently no available methods for controlling these emissions in the short term.

It is generally accepted that in the long term the only truly environmentally sound means of combating traffic pollution is the reduction of emissions at source. But there is no simple and quick solution for this. The problem is that targets for controlling pollution levels are too short for potential emissions reductions to be made effective, such as the development of more efficient and lower emitting vehicles.

Dr Singh explained to edie that he is proposing ways in which the dispersal of pollutants could be enhanced such that by the time emissions reach members of the public living and working near to motorways the pollutants are diluted sufficiently to prevent high levels building up. However, Dr Singh is unwilling to reveal what these methods would be until he has obtained funding.

The proposed work will be carried out by an existing team of specialists based at Enstech and will involve detailed pollutant dispersion modelling to test ways in which dispersal can be optimised to bring emissions within target levels.

Enstech have experience of previous jointly funded studies and are confident that this project will be a success when the necessary funds and resources have been secured. They are currently in discussion with various local authorities that they are hoping will support the project. The research will ultimately provide a practical means by which local authorities will be able to bring in controls to motorway emissions and achieve air quality objectives or their AQMAs.

It is also hoped that the Highways commissions may be able to assist with the project, for example providing expert help for monitoring air quality at specific study sites. DEFRA have been approached but currently have not agreed to devote any resources to the proposed work.

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