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£32m plan to reduce air pollution and improve congestion in Cardiff revealed

A £32m plan to reduce dangerous levels of air pollution, cut congestion, improve road networks, public transport and cycling options in the city centre has been drawn up by Cardiff Council.

The authority has revealed the proposals in response to a legal challenge made by Client Earth on the Welsh Government, which legally bound the Council to take action to reduce pollution levels to a legal limit by 2021.

The Cabinet will be presented with an outline business case at its meeting on Thursday, March 21, and if approved the authority will apply to Welsh Government for the necessary funds to begin work on the two-year programme which includes:

  • Implementation of electric buses to replace the oldest and most polluting buses – costing £1.8m
  • Introduction of a Bus Retrofitting Scheme for bus operators in Cardiff to upgrade older buses so they meet Euro 6 engine emission standards – costing £1.4m
  • Major changes to both Castle Street and Westgate Street and the city centre loop to allow for better and more efficient movement of public transport (buses) and increasing active travel capacity in the City Centre – costing £18.9m
  • Review and implement a revised taxi policy to ensure that all applications to grant a ‘new vehicle license’ or for a ‘change of a vehicle on a current license’ are only approved for vehicles that meet the latest Euro 6 emission standards – costing £5.5m to help taxi owners make the required changes.
  • Improvements to Active Travel and increased 20 mph areas – costing £4.5m

An independent survey commissioned by the Council to forecast future NO2pollution levels in the city has identified just one street where EU legal limits are likely to be breached in future years. The survey was carried out by industry leaders Ricardo and followed similar studies undertaken in several major British cities.

It showed that only Castle Street, which runs in front of the castle from Westgate Street to Duke Street, is likely to fail legal compliance beyond 2021 if nothing is done to reduce traffic pollution.

Cllr Caro Wild, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Transport, said: “”Although only one road in Cardiff – Castle Street – is modelled to breach legal limits by 2021, this doesn’t mean to say we don’t have a problem in the city, we do. Welsh Government have made clear that there is no known safe level of exposure to NO2or particulate matter air pollution, or for short-term exposure to it. The effects of exposure increase the longer someone is exposed and studies have shown that it is responsible for increased rates of lung disease and cancer.

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“Air pollution on Castle Street is the symptom of a wider problem which extends far beyond this stretch of road. We may be within legal limits across the city, but the cleaner we can make the air the better it will be for everyone.We need to be clear that we need to decrease the number of cars that travel through the city centre, whilst increasing the space available for public transport and active travel.

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“We have now come up with a range of measures, which will not only fix the problem on Castle Street, but which will also help make the air we breathe across the city cleaner. The council will be calling on Welsh Government for the necessary funding to bring these measures into place as soon as possible.

Although the modelled data which is required under the EU Directive has only indicated that Castle Street is in breach of the required level, the Council also has a number Air Quality Management Area (AQMAs) in place where the level of roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2)is approaching and in some locations exceeds the limits required by law.

Within the City Centre AQMA and in particular Westgate Street, the council’s latest monitoring at residential locations showed an annual average value of 38.2 micrograms per cubic metre. The legal limit is 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

“Cllr Wild added: “There are other locations in and around Westgate Street, where levels of NO2are also a cause for concern, so it is clear that Castle Street isn’t the only problem in the city centre.

“As the Welsh Government has stated, air quality levels which are barely compliant with the objectives is not ‘clean’ and still carries long-term health risks. Advice has been given to keep levels as low as ‘reasonably practicable.’ An interim action plan is in place on Westgate Street, but the long term measures which are being proposed to reduce the level on Castle Street, should in turn significantly reduce the levels on other streets in the city centre, including Westgate Street in particular.

“Individual schemes which are being proposed in these measures will require further Cabinet approval before they progress. At this stage they are concept designs and we plan to carry out a public engagement exercise on the measures that are being proposed in the business case. Specific details on possible incentive schemes for the taxi trade are yet to be confirmed but a funding request has been made in the business case to the Welsh Government.

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