Making the case for cleaner air
I sympathise strongly with the sentiments expressed by Sam Page in her recent letter and join with her in the despair at seeing Marlborough overwhelmed by the substantially increased levels of heavy traffic. However, if progress is to be made to improve the situation it's clear the community needs to step up its visible concern on what has become the town's most pressing issue.
Traffic is not even on Marlborough Town Council's new 'Action Plan' for the coming three years and Wiltshire have a long record of complacency on such matters. And yet the timescale for making the case for change is driven by the government requiring Wiltshire Council (like all other regions) to produce an area action plan to reduce high levels of roadside NO2 by the end of 2018.
I would suggest it is time for a coordinated community lobby to make a strong and convincing case for material change in traffic management. The arguments for that change must also become more evidential and not fall back on the kind of hyperbole we have seen in the national media this year regarding vehicle air pollution - such efforts antagonise rather than influence.
For instance, the 40K UK deaths figure widely used has been shown to be an invalid guess. My letter to marlborough.news on 18 August refers to this. The relevant Cambridge University paper that assessed the original claim concluded it was based on old data and subject to vast uncertainties and assumptions, stating: "Given (the) complexity, it is not plausible to think of the figure of ‘attributable’ deaths as enumerating an actual group of individuals whose death is attributable to air pollution alone, i.e. the victims of outdoor air pollution."
We must make the argument to turn Marlborough into a shining light for market town traffic management. We know there's a problem here and we must use Marlborough data to force change.
From a traffic viewpoint, any action plan should include a focus on traffic calming and reducing the density of the older vehicles in the congested areas. Older vehicles do not have the latest emissions technology and we must find ways of managing them in a way that is not emotive or unfair.
We know that since 2014 all diesel engines (car, bus and HGV) must comply with the Euro 6 directive, making them among the cleanest engines ever (using particulate filters and an NO2 removing additive called AdBlue).
The new technologies are contributing significantly to a progressive cleaning up of the CO2 and NO2 found in congested areas and is ahead of a general migration to ultra low emission hybrid vehicles (within 5-10 years).
For these reasons, there is no value campaigning against diesel engines as a whole. All that has done is take a hatchet to the British motor industry and unnecessarily put thousands of Swindon jobs (for instance) at risk. What we do in haste today may be easily obsolete in 5 years time and could result in substantial collateral cost to Marlborough's business and community interests. We have to find inventive ways for the medium term to manage (safely) the traffic that is the life blood of the town.
I think there would be value in Sam, myself (Bath Road Improvement Group) and Gaye Denyer (Marlborough Traffic Group) having a chat sooner than later to see how we can coordinate our efforts in the coming vital year.
Peter Morgan C(Mech)Eng, Member of the Guild of Motoring Writers