Air pollution in Marlborough

Written by Peter Morgan on .




Nick Fogg suggests in his recent column that Marlborough has a serious air pollution issue and we are experiencing an environmental 'crisis'.  I would like to offer an alternative viewpoint.

Quoting World Health Organisation estimates on air pollution isn't appropriate for Marlborough.  More plausible references for statistical data in the UK, and for that also read less activist skewed, include the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) and DEFRA.

A recent paper from the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication (Cambridge University) attempted to answer the question 'does air pollution kill 40,000 people in the UK every year'.  The excellent Cambridge work suggests that the Royal College of Physicians 40K estimate is only an interpretation.  It is also based on outdated USA information from 10 years ago.  DEFRA data from last year shows that fine particulate matter, NOx and CO2 levels have been falling steadily in the UK for decades.  The Cambridge conclusion is that there is no 'environmental crisis'.  It is our knowledge of the potential health effects of pollutants such as micro-particulates and NOx that may be improving.

Marlborough is a rural town and we make our living principally from commerce, farming and tourism.  And all of those, plus the support services, require individuals to have independent and convenient access to transport.  If we want to improve air quality, in the medium term the solution doesn't depend on heavy handed edicts on cars from politically motivated non-experts and non-drivers.  We need to think smarter to achieve progress to a common goal.

A vehicle engine has less exhaust if it is running at constant throttle.  Achieving this in an urban situation can be done by eliminating stop-start obstacles and reducing speed limits.  A 2013 study by Imperial College in London surprisingly suggested that reducing speed limits just to 20mph didn't automatically reduce ambient local air quality, it's eliminating the stop-start that makes the difference.

For Marlborough, this suggests we should be giving transiting trucks (as well as cars) the least stop-start obstruction, while all traffic within the town boundaries should travel at no more than 30mph, or 20mph in the High St.  We might assume the two traffic red zones are the A346 Herd St and the A4 past the College.  Both of these routes are littered with obstructions preventing smooth traffic flow.  Solutions will require lateral thinking - for instance pedestrian bridges instead of traffic light crossings and excluding HGVs from the High St (creating just one major A346/A4 intersection at London Rd/Salisbury Rd).  Cycle lanes would further control traffic without stopping it.  New, free, car parks would eliminate the High St merry-go-round and ease the stop-start issue there.

The doomsayers have no workable solutions to offer, except they keep hitting on our hard earned lifestyles and cars.  It's time we persuaded Wiltshire Council to spend Marlborough's money in Marlborough and manage our traffic, not demonise it.




Peter Morgan C(Mech)Eng, Member of the Guild of Motoring Writers