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Locking in the lockdown benefits

Hello readers of AQN and welcome to my regular new feature. Each month I will try to respond to the air quality issues of the day whilst reflecting on the challenges and successes of the work we are doing with our public sector clients both in the UK and in Europe.

Firstly, I should introduce myself. My name is Nick Ruxton-Boyle and I am the director of environment for Marston Holdings, the UK’s largest transport and enforcement company. We provide a suite of technology solutions and services to deliver and enforce clean air zones and schemes including low emission zones, low traffic neighbourhoods and school streets.

I am a transport planner by trade and was head of transport at a London borough with responsibility for transport policy and strategy before joining Marston. I have a three-year-old son called Dylan and I often find myself considering the implications of our emerging plans and projects on how he will access transport and mobility services when he is older. Will he ever drive a car or even own one?

The most significant event in March was the launch of the UK’s first clean air zone in Bath. I have been working with the Bath clean air zone (CAZ) team for any months now and congratulate them on their successful launch. The press coverage has been mostly positive but, with many compliance-based schemes such as low traffic neighbourhoods which is a whole separate column, the scheme does have some detractors.

One could say it is the industry’s ‘Watergate moment’ and notwithstanding the schemes up and running in the capital, has come at a time when we are looking to reopen society and the economy in a way that meets our newfound appreciation for cleaner air.

Unfortunately, it looks like traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels and with it a return to pre-pandemic pollution levels. I have often reflected on the phrase ‘locking in the lockdown benefits’ and am slowly building up a library of ways in which our ingenious and often underfunded and underappreciated local authorities have sought to achieve this.

The transport sector is continually portrayed as being the villain [rightly so for the most] when it comes to slow or a lack of action on emissions and decarbonisation. We are seeing the pandemic accelerating delivery of air quality improvement projects in record time using existing powers, technology, signage, and budgets. This is addressing some of the pre-pandemic issues of pollution, congestion, and safety on roads in our towns and cities.

I look forward to reviewing the travel behaviour data from Bath and seeing how drivers, and the business sector, respond both to the charging CAZ and to the complementary measures which are an often-forgotten part of the overall clean air solution. The stick of CAZ charges and enforcement is often best wielded alongside the carrot of viable, affordable and sustainable alternatives.

Well done to all those transport and air quality professionals delivering air quality solutions in the public sector in difficult times. Keep up the good work. For Dylan and his generation.

For further information please contact Nick on 07767 833 034

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