Transport Convener on plans to improve air quality

Councillor Lesley Hinds writes for the Evening News on air pollution.

There has been a lot of coverage and debate recently in these pages and elsewhere about air pollution in St John’s Road.

First of all, I want to reassure residents that with our partners, we are working to address the root of what is causing poor air quality and make positive changes. 

There is little question that improving air quality is a massive challenge for all major cities and Edinburgh is no exception. It is a priority for us that people who live, work or visit the city have the best air quality.

Air pollution can’t be blamed solely on traffic congestion – it is caused directly through everyone’s use of electricity, fuels and transportation and indirectly when we buy goods or services that use energy in their production and delivery. 

Some organisations appear to want to focus on one or two areas and introduce local Low Emissions Zones. But would we would just be rerouting the problem to another area. The focus for us can’t just be on improving one street but it has to be on every street in our city.

To illustrate, here are some examples of positive changes already introduced to improve air quality in Edinburgh:

• Investment in public transport resulting in more people than ever before using bus and tram 

• Increasing numbers of people who cycle and walk in our city thanks to increasing investment into both cycling and walking infrastructure

• Participation in ECOSTARS, a Europe-wide project recognising cleaner goods and passenger vehicles

• Plugged in Places, which has funded the purchase of electric vehicle charging points at park and ride sites and Council premises.

• Investment in seven Park and Ride sites in and around Edinburgh – use of which continues to rise

• Project to replace the old ‘fixed’ traffic signalling system at the Newbridge Roundabout – improving traffic flows through this complex junction will reduce the amount of peak-time queuing and associated emissions.

Further, we expect the Scottish Government Low Emission strategy, due to be released next month, to outline a number of measures to improve air quality. The Council fully participates in a number of working and steering groups behind the scenes. 

Edinburgh is a successful city and, as such, the population is growing and is expected to grow further over next 20 years. This brings with it the challenge of investing in sustainable transport to move thousand of extra people around the city. 

Yes, more people than ever before are using public transport in Edinburgh but we cannot afford to be complacent – we must continue to investigate how and where we can improve further. 

I am confident that Edinburgh is on the right track – but putting all our effort into one street is not the solution. 

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