Cardiff council congestion plans amid pollution fears

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Media captionCould congestion charges help solve Cardiff's pollution?

Measures to tackle congestion in Wales' capital are set to be brought in amid concern over pollution levels.

Air quality averages in Cardiff are the fourth worst in the UK, according to research, with Castle Street a particular concern.

Cardiff council will publish its transport white paper on 15 January to cover its vision for the next 10 years.

One councillor said he feared it could include a congestion charge on vehicles.

The council would not confirm details of the white paper but said it would announce funding to bring in 36 electric buses on a number of routes into the city centre, which had previously been announced.

It also said it would make changes to the taxi licensing policy, clean up older buses to the latest emission standards and "re-model roads in the city centre to encourage public transport and active travel".

Image caption Councillor Joel Williams says he fears motorists could be charged to enter a "clean air zone"

A previous idea to charge motorists to enter a "clean air" zone in the city centre was dropped in March - but some councillors believe those plans may now be resurrected.

Joel Williams, representing Pontprennau and Old St Mellons, said that would be a mistake.

He said: "My understanding is that the Cardiff Labour party are considering introducing a congestion charge which all people living outside of Cardiff would have to pay.

"That could mean that the 70,000 commuters coming into our great city would be forced to pay the congestion charge.

"There must first be investment in public transport, otherwise it's simply a moral hazard to charge people."

Image caption Huw Cook, of British Lung Foundation and pressure group Healthy Air Cymru, says behaviours need to be changed

The British Lung Foundation and pressure group Healthy Air Cymru believe "bold initiatives" are needed.

"Clean air zones are the most effective way of reducing air pollution in the short-term and working towards clean air levels in the long term," said spokesman Huw Cook.

"It's not about punishing drivers or generating revenue. It's about changing behaviours, very much like the smoking ban as a public health intervention."

How bad is air quality in Cardiff?

A study by Birmingham University has revealed that air quality in Cardiff is among the worst in the UK - relative to its size, traffic and population.

"Cardiff is a relatively compact city and does rather poorly when you look at the average concentration of air pollution across the city," said Prof Rob Mackenzie.

"On top of that you will have certain hot spots.

"We should all be taking initiatives, across the UK, to move from petrol and diesel driven private transport and road delivered freight.

"The one good thing about nitrogen oxides and the tiny particulates in the air is that they, more or less, instantly go away as soon as you make significant changes in the way people move around a city and generate their heating."

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Climate protestors previously held a demonstration on Castle Street - highlighted as a pollution hot spot

What does the council say?

Following a public consultation, Cardiff council said it was committed to "go further" than merely complying with EU directives over nitrogen dioxide levels.

"The Welsh Government has set out that there is no safe level of exposure to air pollution and the main source of poor air quality in the Welsh capital is caused by road transport, with diesel engines being the main concern," a spokesman said.

"This is why we are committed to working with our partners to significantly improve the infrastructure for both public transport and active travel into and within the city's boundaries."

The council previously announced major changes to vehicle access as part of £21m plans to clean up the capital's air.

They included changing traffic flow, new cycle lanes and replacing the oldest public buses with electric vehicles.

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