National Alliance Against Tolls - Edinburgh Air Quality

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1. "Get Edinburgh Moving" on the home page of their web site say:- "Meanwhile, pollution from transport accounts for nearly a quarter of the UK's carbon dioxide emissions and is the fastest growing cause of atmospheric pollution. Not only does this contribute to climate change, it is a serious cause of ill health. Around 240 people a year in Edinburgh are killed by car pollution."

2. It is not clear what this claim is based on. It seems that cars are the cause of various ills, and that Tolls will cure them. But:- Tolls do not reduce miles travelled.

Tolls do not vary with emissions from a vehicle.

Most City centre pollution does not come from cars.

Pollution in urban Britain has been falling for the last 10 years.

Pollution in Edinburgh City Centre is forecast to fall further.

Air Quality is not a health problem according to an Edinburgh City Council report.

London Toll Zone Air Quality has not improved.

Edinburgh car drivers paying a toll of 500 a year, will make virtually no difference to CO2.

Tolls do not reduce miles travelled

3. There is no evidence that Tolls reduce the amount of miles travelled. Tolls do not cause a significant switch of people away from cars and goods transport away from lorries and vans. The main change is that journey patterns will change to avoid the tolls. This means longer journeys on less suitable roads.

4. In the case of Edinburgh, the Toll scheme would increase vehicle miles in the area between the 2 cordons where most people live and schools are situated.

Tolls do not vary with emissions from a vehicle

5. Tolls do not usually distinguish between a small car and a large car, and so do nothing to encourage the use of vehicles that use less fossil fuel. The proposed Edinburgh toll doesn't even distinguish between a small car and a large lorry!

6. To the extent that there is a switch to other forms of transport, that will be fuelled directly or indirectly by the burning of fossil fuels. (Some electricity is generated by nuclear fission or "renewables", but that already goes into the "baseload". So if more electricity is generated to power e.g. trams, that will come from burning more coal, gas or oil.)

Most City centre pollution does not come from cars

7. In a city centre, emissions from cars are swamped by emissions from other Road Transport i.e. buses, taxis and goods vehicles.

8. In October 2003, Edinburgh produced an Air Quality Action Plan  Action Plan Summary  which endorsed the introduction of tolls with exemptions for buses, taxis etc, but it is not clear why - the Plan Summary at page 3 says:-

"A relatively small number of vehicles can contribute significantly to emissions of NOx. At Haymarket and on Princes Street, buses contribute the largest proportion, whilst on Queen Street the most significant vehicles are light goods vehicles."

The accompanying table 2 shows that for the Haymarket only 8% of Particulates is from cars, 55% comes from buses, and 37% from Goods vehicles. For Nitrogen Dioxide, only 13% is from cars, 53% is from buses, and 34% from goods vehicles. The figures for cars are similar on other city centre streets for which figures are available.

Pollution in urban Britain has been falling for the last 10 years

9. The Government's "Air Quality Headline Indicator"  DEFRA Press Release 13 Jan 2005   measures air quality for 5 key "pollutants" against standards. Two of the 5 key pollutants have nearly always been low (carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide). A third (sulphur dioxide) has fallen to low levels. Fine Particles (pm10) has fallen but is still high; the part that comes from "road transport" is mainly buses, lorries and taxis. Ozone is high and fluctuates from year to year.

10. The overall figures for "Air Quality Headline Indicator" is separated between "Urban" and "Rural". The "Urban" figures first became available in 1993. Comparing 2004 provisional figures with 1993, there has been a fall of 62% in urban areas Air Pollution and an increase of 24% in rural areas. The figures have fluctuated.

11. Ozone is the cause of the overall fluctuation and the higher pollution in rural areas. Ozone is created when oxygen molecules merge with a free oxygen atom. This process is greater on fine sunny days. Some pollutants increase this effect, but Nitrogen Dioxide reduces it. The level of Nitrogen Oxide is a lot lower in rural areas, and this is possibly why Ozone is a lot higher in rural areas.

12. The Government has estimated how much of the total pollution from all sources comes from road transport, (the road transport share does not all come from cars!). Though there has been an increase in the number of vehicles, this has been more than offset by them being substantially cleaner than they were. Latest figures (2002) as compared with 1990 for Road Transport (inc cars) are:- Carbon Monoxide down to 35% of 1990 level (5375 to 1916) and making up 59% of total emissions of  Carbon Monoxide

Fine Particles (pm10) down to 65% of 1990 levels (60 to 39) and making up 24% of total emissions of   Fine Particles (pm10)

Nitrogen Dioxide down to 55% of 1990 levels (1295 to 711) and making up 45% of total emissions of  Nitrogen Dioxide

Ozone is created when various gases interact with sunlight; the figures are fluctuating and there are no annual estimates of how much Ozone is due to road transport.  Ozone

Sulphur Dioxide down to 5% of 1990 levels (63 to 3)and making up 0.3% of total emissions of  Sulphur Dioxide
13. The above figures are for Britain, but the Scottish Executive publish summary figures, including Edinburgh Centre, for all 5 of the gases in the UK Air Quality Headline figure. The figures mainly go back to 1992 or 1993. The more recent figures are stated by the Scottish Executive to be unreliable due to too few readings at the monitoring station:-
Carbon Monoxide substantial fall from annual mean concentration of 1.1 in 1992 to 0.4 in 2002   Carbon Monoxide

Fine Particles (pm10) slight fall from annual mean concentration of 30 in 1993 to 27 in 2002   Fine Particles (pm10)

Nitrogen Dioxide slight fall from annual mean concentration of 53 in 1992 to 48 in 2002   Nitrogen Dioxide

Ozone substantial increase from annual mean ground level of 17 in 1992 to 35 in 2002 (as previously mentioned, Ozone increases with the number of fine sunny days).    Ozone

Sulphur Dioxide substantial fall from Winter Mean of 25 in 1992 to 5 in 2000   Sulphur Dioxide
14. Edinburgh Pollution figures are within Government targets, apart from the Nitrogen Dioxide figure which is above the target for 2005. Nationally, the Government say that only 45% of Nitrogen Dioxide comes from Road Transport, but the City Council says that the figure for Edinburgh is 88%. In any case according to Edinburgh (taking the Haymarket as an example) only 13% comes from cars.

Pollution in Edinburgh City Centre is forecast to fall further

15. "Legislation for road vehicles and fuel has substantially reduced individual vehicle emissions. A car built in 2000 producers around 5% of the emissions of pollutants relevant to local air quality management of a car manufactured in the 1970s. However, for air quality objectives to be achieved emissions from road transport will have to be reduced much further. Cleaner technologies have the potential to reduce emissions to the required levels."   Action Plan Summary  (page 10)

16. This is reinforced by the accompanying Table 4 which shows that if the council "do nothing" they estimate that due to cleaner vehicles by 2010 there will be a 40% reduction in emissions of Nitrogen Dioxide and 60% reduction in Particulates.

Air Quality is not a health problem according to an Edinburgh City Council report

17. All pollutants potentially affect health. The pollutants may be indoors or outdoors. But apart from Ozone, and possibly Fine Particles, the levels in Britain of the other pollutants are below that at which health would generally be affected.

18. "Air Quality - Edinburgh meets all the standards except the annual average for nitrogen dioxide, NO2, of 40 micrograms per metre cubed set for 2005"   Action Plan Executive Summary

19. "The pollutant of most concern in Edinburgh NO2...However, health effects do not occur at the levels of NO2 experienced in Edinburgh."   Action Plan Summary  (page 1). Also see paragraph 14 above.

20. Another possible item of concern is Particulates, but:- "In comparison with the annual mean standard of 40(g/m3 (grav) all sites recorded significantly lower values. The number of fixed daily means greater than 50(g/m3 (grav) was also significantly lower than the permitted maximum of 35."   Particulates Figures (2000)

London Toll Zone Air Quality has not improved

21. The evidence is what the Toll people (Transport for London) have produced:-  Impacts Review - January 2005. They say "it is not possible to identify a clear 'congestion charging effect' in monitored air quality data." (page 4)

22. They report on the 2 worst pollutants:- Nitrogen Dioxide and Particulate Matter, pm10. They show graphs rather than figures. There are numerous measuring sites in London, and the results will and do vary widely between locations, though most attention is paid to the figures for the Zone. The report does suggest that air quality is better since the London Toll was introduced. This is not however reflected in the graphs particularly if they are corrected.

23. The graphs for Nitrogen Dioxide (figure 23 on page 35) and Particulate Matter (figure 24 on page 36) show the Toll starting in February 2002 and give the impression that pollution was fairly flat until a year after the Toll started. But if you look at the actual start of the Toll in February 2003, you will see that pollution shot up.

24. The report does admit that there has been "an increase in NO2 concentrations." (page 34). Not only have they increased but the figure is just over 70 mg, which compares with Edinburgh figure of 48 mg.

25. The situation is similar with the other main pollutant- Particulate Matter, pm10. The roadside figure within the charging zone has increased from around 36 mg to around 51 mg. The figure for Edinburgh is 27.

Edinburgh drivers paying a toll of 500 a year, will make virtually no difference to CO2.

26. Carbon Dioxide is an essential part of life, it is breathed out by animal life and absorbed by plants. More carbon dioxide stimulates plant growth and to some extent uses up the "excess" carbon dioxide. When the plant decays (or is burnt), the carbon is released back into the atmosphere. Sometimes the matter from decaying plants has been locked up as "fossil fuels". As the fossil fuels are burnt carbon is released back into the carbon cycle.

27. Carbon Dioxide is one of various "greenhouse" gases that are increasing in the atmosphere and may be causing a "Global Warming" effect. This is regarded by most scientists and politicians as a problem, possibly greater than the problems and risks from an increasing human population, disease, wars, volcanoes, earthquakes etc.

28. According to government figures   UK Greenhouse Gas Sources for 2002 per DEFRA)   Transport produced 123 million tons of CO2 in 2002. A large figure, but only 23% of the 550 million tons produced in UK. And of course Transport is not just cars.
The US Environmental Protection Agency   US Environmental Protection Agency Global Warming Emissions   has similarly calculated that about 25% of US greenhouse gases come from Transportation.

29. The effect of people from Edinburgh and the surrounding area paying up to 500 a year Tolls will be virtually nil, as Tolls will not reduce the number of vehicle miles. Neither will they have any effect on the bulk of CO2 which does not come from cars.

List of Sources quoted

Edinburgh City Council - Air Quality
Air Quality Home Page   Action Plan Summary   Action Plan Executive Summary   Particulates Figures (2000)

Pollutants - Road Transport
Carbon Monoxide    Fine Particles (pm10)    Nitrogen Dioxide    Ozone    Sulphur Dioxide

Pollutants - Edinburgh Centre
Carbon Monoxide    Fine Particles (pm10)    Nitrogen Dioxide    Ozone    Sulphur Dioxide

DEFRA Air Quality Press Release 13 Jan 2005   London Impacts Review - January 2005      UK Greenhouse Gas Sources for 2002 per DEFRA   US Environmental Protection Agency Global Warming Emissions

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