Comment: ‘The problem is only going get worse’

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Green technology has come on in leaps and bounds over the last ten years. The average family car now produces a fraction of the pollution that it did a decade ago.

You might expect that such developments would lead to a dramatic improvement in air quality in towns and cities across the UK. Air pollution, however, is proving a particularly stubborn problem.

The growing number of cars on the road is counterbalancing the advances in environmentally-friendly design. The end result in the Capital is that certain types of pollution are actually getting worse in some of our worst affected streets. Traffic-clogged St John’s Road, as pictured on today’s front page, is a prime example.

It is shocking to think that more than 200 people might be dying every year as a result of this air pollution. The figures quoted in the new Health Protection Scotland report might only be estimates, but they should act as an alarm call nevertheless.

Anyone who is forced to spend long parts of their day in polluted streets such as St John’s Road or parts of the West End must worry about the impact on their health. Cutting the levels of air pollution – and reversing the trend in these blackspots – has got to be one of the city’s key environmental targets.

If the reason for the growing problem is clear, then the answer is too. The improvements brought about by green technology are being counterbalanced by the growing number of vehicles on our roads.

The Capital’s rapidly growing population makes it particularly difficult to control the problem. More people are moving into the Capital and as they do they bring their cars with them. That problem is only going to get worse as the city continues to expand over the next ten or 20 years.

The answer has to be getting more cars off the city’s roads.

It is strange that in these circumstances the environmental benefits of the trams have not been more trumpeted. We hear a lot about how the trams are a quick, convenient and cool way of getting large numbers of people from A to B, yet we have not heard so much about the role that they can play in combating rising pollution levels.

This is one strong argument for the Capital expanding its soon-to-be opened truncated tram line into a proper network in the years and decades to come.