We need a long term transport strategy for Bath not a piecemeal approach

Author
Ian Bell
Executive Director of Bath Chamber of Commerce and Initiative | Business West
14th January 2019

It was good news to hear the Council is taking more time before coming to a decision on the imposition of a Clean Air Zone in Bath. Doubtless they will find many alternative views in the thousands of responses they have had to their consultation process and hopefully a good number of those will be based on hard fact and not on a knee jerk reaction to the issue.

Recently Initiative members had the chance to digest much food for thought on the subject served up by Richard Burke, from the University of Bath’s brilliant Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems. They are not only engaged in developing cleaner and more efficient engines for the future, but they also study how existing cars behave now in the real world.

One of the things they have discovered it that one of the contributors to poor air quality on the London Road is its setting. The long run down the hill along the A46 cools the catalytic converter on even a very modern diesel car and switches if off. So when it is sitting in the queue of traffic it is sending out far more emissions than it would if it was at normal operating temperature. 

There’s also the question about how cars are driven. Research has shown that it is quite possible for a car that is deemed to be compliant to be driven in such a way – for example, accelerating hard from traffic light to traffic light – that it produces more emissions than a non compliant car being driven in a less aggressive manner.

What was clear from a fairly short presentation was this subject is very much more complex than we might have thought at the beginning. When you add in issues such as the impact a charge would have on people who can’t afford a modern car but who need to get into Bath to their job then it becomes ever more difficult to work out what’s the best route to beat the pollution. 

Certainly more park and rides and increased frequency of public transport have a part to play but there’s no getting away from it that we need a deliverable long term transport strategy not a piecemeal approach which could bring damaging and unforeseen consequences.

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