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Air Quality + Affordable Mobility = Balancing Act

Air Quality + Affordable Mobility = Balancing Act
13th April 2017 Jo Donnelly
London Air Pollution

The diesel vehicle, following a string of bad headlines, and with an increasingly irate health and environmental lobby calling for its demise, appears to be heading for pariah status, usurped by cleaner, friendlier technologies.

A number of blunt measures have been implemented already (at least two London councils have introduced diesel parking surcharges), with others being proposed (the scrappage scheme in the next budget; “toxin taxes” in the provinces, additional charges to enter London’s ULEZ) but without a joined up, national framework in place, we are at risk of causing confusion, and setting a series of consequences in motion.

For example, City X introduces a scheme in which all diesel vehicles older than 10 years are banned from entering. City Y introduces a similar scheme, with all diesel vehicles older than 5 years banned. For the sake of argument, say the average age of a car in the UK is 7 years, with approximately 7 million such vehicles falling into that age category.

If the example above came to pass, City X would let them in freely, but City Y wouldn’t.  Used car buyers would need to choose a vehicle that would, or wouldn’t, let them into a city, as per their need. As for the owners of vehicles older than 10 years, they will be left with a vehicle that is non-grata in the cities. In both cases, their £ values shift accordingly, depending on their congestion charge status and location.

The only route into those cities for those without newer cars would be by public transport. Fine, if the public transport infrastructure is in place to support it. Bus services would need to increase, and if air quality is the problem, that’s not necessarily the solution.

We’re advocates of electric vehicles (I’ve driven over 30,000 miles by battery power), and welcome the advances in technology and charging infrastructure of the last 5 years. Our company actively promotes their uptake, with the belief that anything that can be done to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels (as long as they’re charged on a green supply) is a good thing.

We do have a mounting air quality crisis, but the measures proposed and announced so far are the product of muddled, disjointed short-term measures which don’t take account of the potential consequences.

What is needed, and soon, is a coherent nationwide strategy, balancing air quality issues alongside the need for affordable mobility.

Author: Craig Pullen, Head of Operations, Run Your Fleet

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