Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Grayling: 'have a long, hard think about diesel'

The Transport Secretary is talking about cars, but with the issue of air pollution and its impacts on health increasingly in the headlines, focus is turning to all modes of transport.

As more becomes known about the effects of air pollution, and the number of illnesses and deaths attributed to it, the headlines and calls for action will only increase. One can only speculate what the headlines might look like in 10 years time, and how a planning decision to put 2.5 million HGV diesel-polluting miles on Devon roads would be regarded then.

We should obviously all be making less polluting, more sustainable transport choices - aggregate companies included. Indeed, more aggregate is being transported by rail.

But just as supermarket buyers are considering dropping lines - such as asparagus from Peru - that are environmentally unsustainable, mineral planners should not be supporting plans to transport millions of tonnes of sand and gravel half way across a county for processing purposes alone.

There are thousands of air pollution–related early deaths each year. Whilst Grayling talks cars, a former minister 'urges the government to focus on large commercial vehicles to improve air quality':
Foster cites the recent think tank Respublica’s report: ‘Air Necessities: place-based approaches to a pollution crisis’ as further evidence of the polluting impact of road vehicles, especially HGVs and buses.
“The Respublica report paints a clean picture of the costs incurred by poor air quality, contributing to the unacceptable 40,000 air pollution–related early deaths,” states Foster.
“Something needs to be done now... Despite noises from the government about people choosing their next car with air pollution in mind, they would be better off focussing on the big stuff, namely HGVs and buses,” he continues.
“The report makes it clear that together just 6% of vehicle miles driven by HGVs and buses are responsible for 48% of nitrogen oxides. Whereas with smaller vehicles, 94% of vehicle miles account for only 52% of roadside pollution.”
Foster says that factoring in the fact that HGVs and buses account for less than 2% of vehicles in the UK, the polluting impact of large vehicles is disproportionately extremely high – and hence his plea for a change to government thinking.