By Olly Davies
Cardiff Council has announced plans to improve the city’s air quality after a study by Birmingham University found the capital of Wales has worse air quality than London. London is a more polluted city overall, but due to more bus and train services there is less pollution in the air overall. Cardiff Council has therefore been gifted £21 million by the Welsh Government to make Cardiff’s air cleaner.
Air pollution at the current level has many potentially negative consequences for people’s health. This can range from an increased risk of cancer and lung disease to damaging immune systems and reproductive abilities.
The Council has proposed four projects to help reduce pollution: retrofitting buses; taxi mitigation measures; city centre transport improvements; and an active travel package making it easier for people to walk and cycle in the city centre.
To reduce the emissions from buses currently in operation, 150 vehicles will be retrofitted with catalytic converters. These converters will bring the buses in line with the “Euro 6 engine emissions standard”. The scheme will be open to all bus operators.
The Council also wants to introduce fully electric buses. However, this is not part of the £21m plan. The introduction of these buses will be funded by the “Ultra-Low Emission Bus Fund” from the Department of Transport and a loan from the Council matching this amount to Cardiff Bus. This is instead of a funding bid to the Clean Air Fund.
The Council also wants to see 30% of taxi vehicles in Cardiff switch to hybrid and electric. This is because legally, the Council can only provide funding for the running and operational costs of hybrid and electric vehicles and cannot assist with the purchase of new vehicles. This is estimated to cost £1.85m.
The Council is aiming to spend around £1.28m to encourage people to walk and cycle around the city as part of the active travel.
The majority of the grant is set to be spent on significant changes to the city centre. The Council intends to make changes to both Castle Street and Westgate Street and the city centre loop, too. This will hopefully enable more efficient flow of buses throughout the city whilst boosting Cardiff’s active travel capacity.
To begin with the work was thought to cost £18.9m. This has now been reduced to £15.2m of the grant as alternative funding has been sourced.