"Encouraging" early Edinburgh air quality figures for 2016

Positive statistics from monitoring stations at key locations in the Capital show a marked improvement in air quality so far this year compared to 2015, with 97% of streets meeting required standards.

Green flag parks 2010 corstorphine hill
St Cuthbert's RC Primary sow the floral meadow at Saughton Park

New nitrogen dioxide monitoring data covering January to August 2016 demonstrates a 33% improvement at St John's Road compared to the same period last year, while emissions on Glasgow Road at the Newbridge Roundabout are down by more than a fifth since 2015. 

The midyear review figures from the network of fixed monitoring sites across the city are publicly available now on the Scottish Government's Air Quality in Scotland website. 

The data will be further calibrated and validated to allow the City of Edinburgh Council to comply with its statutory duty to submit a yearly report to the UK and Scottish Governments detailing air quality in the city and measures to improve it.

The nitrogen dioxide data, a significant source of which is road traffic emissions, shows a 33% improvement at St John’s Road compared to the same time last year, 21% improvement at Newbridge Roundabout, 9% at Salamander Street, 8% at Queen Street and 2% at Gorgie Road.

The Council's Transport and Environment Convener Councillor Lesley Hinds today welcomed the figures as an encouraging sign that concerted efforts to make Edinburgh's air quality better may be starting to bear fruit. 

Cllr Hinds said: "These early figures are very encouraging and we'll continue to monitor the sites to see if the positive trends continue. 

"However, we're not complacent and we know there's more work to be done tackling other pollutants, such as Particulate Matter in areas like Salamander Street, some of which may be linked to industrial processes rather than road traffic.

"As a Council we are making every effort to address pockets of poor air quality in the city, and are currently working on a range of projects to encourage sustainable transport and to improve our own fleet to reduce emissions. We monitor air quality continuously across the city and the Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) enables us to direct actions more effectively at those locations. In fact, 97% of our streets meet required standards, meaning that we can target resources to problem areas.

“That said, we are aware that there are improvements which can be made to limit emissions across Edinburgh and bring this figure up to 100% to create a cleaner, greener city for everyone.

"At St John’s Road we have made use of Scottish Government funding to investigate ways of improving air quality, including hybrid buses, increased provision for electric vehicles and measures to reduce traffic queuing.

"The improvements in air quality on Glasgow Road at the Newbridge Roundabout may be the first sign that the £200,000 we invested upgrading the traffic signals to reduce queuing is having a positive effect.

“Lothian Buses have also made great strides to improve the energy-efficiency of their fleet by introducing new hybrid-electric buses.”

All air quality stations except St John’s Road are currently in compliance with the regulatory standard of 40ug/m3 for nitrogen dioxide. Less than 3% of Edinburgh is in air quality management areas, meaning that more than 97% of the city is in compliance with regulatory standards for air quality. A wide range of actions (detailed above) is already being taken towards bringing this percentage up to 100%.

The air quality improvement actions taken by the Council include:

1. Leveraged millions of pounds of support for successful Lothian Bus applications to Scottish Green Bus Fund 6 
2. Founding member of ECOSTARS freight and fleet recognition scheme which improves fuel efficiency and thus reduces emissions. Edinburgh was the leader in Scotland in 2011 along with a small group of like minded European cities. 
3. Introduced Active Travel Plans to encourage modal shift away from cars.
4. Reduced number of parking spaces in new commercial developments to discourage car use
5. Built new cycle ways
6. Spent £200k on upgrading the traffic signals on Newbridge roundabout to a smart system modelled to reduce traffic queuing by 80% and thus lowering emissions from idling traffic
7. Built and successfully operate park and ride sites around the city
8. Extended parking zones to encourage modal shift away from cars
9. Introduced “School Streets” to restrict car movements at the beginning and end of the school day to encourage more walking and reduce school run car use
10. Introduced 20mph zones with slower but more smoothly moving traffic expected to reduce emissions
11. Leading local authority in preparation of Scottish Government Cleaner Air for Scotland low emission strategy launched December 2015 
12.  Upgraded Council fleet to include electric vehicles
13. Installed network of successful (measured by rising electricity usage) electric vehicle charging points

The air quality monitoring station on St John’s Road is located at the point where the highest levels of pollution are to be found around the Clermiston Road junction and is not representative of the whole street. Smaller monitors at other areas along the St John’s Road route show they comply with air quality regulations, so the area of air quality concern is quite localised. 

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