Leader: ‘Low-cost steps can also deliver results’

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Air pollution is proving to be a stubborn problem in the Capital.

Like most UK cities, we failed to meet European Union clean air targets in 2010, and there is every chance we’ll fall below those standards again in 2015.

It is a serious problem, with the World Health Organisation blaming higher levels of air pollution in cities for increased heart and respiratory problems among their residents.

With older buses known to be among the prime culprits, and serious pollution problems in Edinburgh restricted to a handful of “hot spot” areas, a ban on those vehicles is an enticingly simple solution.

Yet, there are reasons why a string of UK cities outside of London have examined the idea of low emission zones, then failed to take them forward.

Firstly, they are expensive to operate. London’s makes a loss, despite levying a £10 congestion charge for driving through it. That is no good reason on its own to abandon the idea, but it is a valid consideration – especially when an expensive scheme would have to be funded through some kind of levy, directly or indirectly. More concerning are the persisting doubts about their effectiveness. Some believe a ban on older vehicles in the city centre would simply shift the problem to outlying arterial routes such as Ferry Road.

Lothian Buses has spent millions of pounds in making its fleet “green”, introducing a series of evironmentally-friendly vehicles. That investment, which makes it a leader in the field, must continue. That may be expensive too, but it is undoubtedly effective.

Other low-cost voluntary steps can also deliver results. How about an agreement between the council and bus operators to use only their greenest vehicles on the routes which pass through the Capital’s pollution “hot spots”?

Action is needed to clean up our air, but it has to be action that is going to get results.