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Oxford council welcomes air quality impact of LEZ

First full-year results from Oxford’s Low Emission Zone show no exceedances of hourly nitrogen dioxide limits

Oxford city council has welcomed air quality improvements in the city following results of its first full-year of air monitoring since the introduction of its first low emission zone (LEZ) in January 2014.

As reported by airqualtynews.com, early results presented in November 2014 had shown there were no exceedances of the hourly mean objective for nitrogen dioxide on St Aldates Street since the LEZ came into force.

A Low Emission Zone for buses came into force in Oxford city centre on January 1 2014

A Low Emission Zone for buses came into force in Oxford city centre on January 1 2014

This contrasts with 58 breaches in 2012, and also 12 breaches in 2013 as bus companies began to introduce lower emission vehicles in view of the LEZ coming into force.

And, now preliminary results for 2014 confirm that there were no exceedances of the national 200ug3 (microgrammes per cubic metre) limit throughout the entire year, the council has hailed the impact of the LEZ on the city’s air quality.

Oxford councillor John Tanner, board member for a cleaner, greener Oxford, said: “I’m thrilled to see the latest results which suggest our Low Emission Zone is indeed cleaning up Oxford’s air. Well done to the bus companies for cleaning up their act. We will continue to monitor air quality and take further steps if necessary.”

Oxford’s LEZ – now the third in the UK outside London since Brighton introduced its LEZ last month (see airqualtynews.com story) – has required the city’s bus fleets to be upgraded to meet Euro 5 emission standards.

If bus companies do not comply, they face losing their licence to operate in the city.

David Nimmo Smith, Oxfordshire county council’s cabinet member for the environment, said: “This is excellent news and a vindication for the scheme. However, this is only the beginning of the journey and we will see further improvements as vehicles become even more efficient and newer technologies are introduced in the coming years.”

The city council is also urging taxi operators to upgrade to low emission vehicles where possible, while also encouraging people living or working in Oxford to cycle, walk, carshare or take the bus as much as possible in a bid to cut air pollution.

Bus firms

Managing director of Oxford Bus Company, Phil Southall, said his firm had invested nearly £19 million over the last six years in its fleet, including new electric hybrid buses.

Mr Southall added: “We already have one of the greenest bus fleets in the country so naturally we are delighted the Low Emission Zone has been such a success. We‘ve always bought the most environmentally friendly vehicles available.”

Another Oxfordshire bus firm, Stagecoach, said it had “invested heavily” in new buses and that by the end of 2015 it will have replaced all its buses and coaches in Oxford since 2010 with either new hybrids, Euro 5 or the Euro 6 emission standard vehicles.

Stagecoach managing director, Martin Sutton, said: “Our bus fleet is one of the most modern in the UK and we are firmly committed to playing our part in further reducing emissions in Oxford and throughout the county as well as attracting more people to switch from cars to greener and cleaner means of transport.”

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