The plans announced today by local authorities to deal with the #airpollution public health crisis could even risk making the problem worse, not better: Placing fees on buses is going to lead to more expensive travel for the public transport commuter, who is already facing spiralling costs, encouraging those with cars to stay behind the wheel.
Our campaigner Tay Pitman told the Chronicle that “to tackle the 200 deaths from air pollution that Newcastle sees every year, we should be making it cheaper, easier and safer to use public transport, or walk or cycle. It’s disappointing that there’s no commitment in the council’s plans to allocate more road space to buses and bikes, or make walking safer.”
The authorities' plans failed to explore the ideas we proposed in their consultation to encourage people to use less polluting forms of transport; from a workplace parking levy on larger employers, replacing the ‘alive after five’ free evening parking in the city with free public transport, more park and ride, encouraging car-sharing, or the introduction of smart tickets for public transport to be used across metro and bus services. Newcastle council have also apparently dropped our suggestion to trial a car-free day in central Newcastle, despite previously saying it deserved "serious consideration".
These plans are hardly the radical action needed to begin to the tackle lethal air pollution, nor the climate emergency we face.
With toxic air pollution still rising in our city centre, it's a real shame to find last night that Newcastle Council seem to have dropped our suggestion for a car-free day trial in September, which at the last council meeting they said deserved "serious consideration".
We launched our last General Election campaign on the theme of air pollution, yet meanwhile Newcastle Council has taken little in the way of concrete action to tackle this growing public health crisis, which worsens health inequality by affecting the young, poor and vulnerable the worst.
We're also increasingly concerned about the relative lack of air quality monitoring on the Western side of our city, despite areas of heavy traffic there too.