The Welsh Government has confirmed that temporary 50 mph speed limits and other measures are being introduced at five locations on Welsh roads in a bid to improve air quality from Monday (18 June).
The temporary speed restrictions will be introduced at short stretches of road, between 1.4km to 5.9km in length at the A494 at Deeside, A483 at Wrexham, M4 between Junctions 41 & 42 (Port Talbot), M4 between junctions 25 & 26 (Newport) and the A470 between Upper Boat & Pontypridd.
Other measures include increased signage to promote smooth traffic flow. The measures are expected to deliver immediate improvements to air quality, with emissions estimated to potentially reduce by up to 18% at the five locations, the Welsh Government has said.
These are part of a range of actions being introduced by the Welsh Government to improve air quality in Wales, including a new Â£20m Air Quality Fund, a Clean Air Zone Framework and a new Air Quality website providing local data on air pollution levels.
This comes after the Welsh Government admitted in the High Court in January that it had failed to bring forward measures to speed up compliance with legal nitrogen dioxide limits (see airqualitynews.com story).
Minister for Environment, Hannah Blythyn, said: â€œI am committed to taking action to reduce air pollution in Wales to support a healthier future for our communities and protect our natural environment. Current levels of nitrogen dioxide exceed the legal limit at the five road locations, so we need to act as soon as possible.
â€œWe have been carrying out investigations into all potential measures for reducing nitrogen dioxide levels. Our initial studies tell us that 50 mph speed limits should have the greatest potential to improve air quality at each location. The actions we take to improve air quality in Wales have a key role in supporting the right conditions for better health and well-being.â€
Poor air quality is thought to contribute to an estimated 2,000 deaths per year in Wales, with exposure affecting vulnerable population groups in particular. Gases such as nitrogen dioxide can increase the symptoms of people with lung diseases, while short-term exposure is associated with increased cardiovascular and respiratory morbidity.
The Welsh Government is consulting on longer term measures to address exceedances of NO2, with a consultation on potential steps closing on Tuesday (19 June). It is then expected to present a formal strategy before 31 July, as ordered by the High Court following the January hearing.
Welsh Ministers have also called for more devolved powers from the UK government to address air pollution.
Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates, said: â€œI want to see concrete measures put in place by the UK Government which focus on removing the source of the problem. They have prevented us from taking our preferred course of action â€“ it is now time for them to step up and use the powers which they have so closely guarded for the benefit of the people of Wales.
â€œThe root cause is the emissions from vehicles, but legislative competence for vehicle standards and fiscal measures, such as the Vehicle Excise Duty and Company Car Tax, remain with the UK Government. Despite repeated calls, the UK Government has consistently refused to devolve powers which allow us to improve standards and incentivise improved emissions through the tax regime.â€