Improving air quality on and around our network
At Highways England, we want to do all we can to look after the wellbeing of our customers – everyone who uses our roads and those who live or work near them.
That includes making a difference when it comes to air quality.
We know that emissions from vehicles using our roads, particularly nitrogen dioxide (NO2), contribute to poor air quality, posing risks to people’s health and wellbeing.
We also know that there’s a long-term solution to poor air quality: replacing older vehicles that create pollution with ones that are better for the environment. There’s a substantial amount of work under way across Government and industry to achieve this.
But there’s still much to do to fix the problem of poor air quality in the shorter term, through practical and effective measures.
One way we’re doing this is through our environment and wellbeing designated fund. This fund is helping us operate our business in an environmentally responsible way, while making sure sustainability shapes our work from start to finish.
Our research programme has played an important role in making sure we invest this money wisely and achieve real and meaningful improvement for the people most affected by poor air quality.
Air quality strategy
We published our Air Quality Strategy in August 2017 setting out our approach and activity to deliver cleaner air. It’s provided us with direction throughout this first Road Investment Strategy period and we’ve made good progress in this area.
The strategy clearly described how we will achieve the best results by working in partnership with others – to not only help solve the challenges posed by air quality but also work to implement the solutions.
Designated funding for air quality
The government has committed ring-fenced funding specifically for the environment and wellbeing to deliver cleaner air to protect the health of our neighbours and road users. Work includes exploring new and innovative approaches to air quality through pilots and feasibility studies with the anticipation some of these can be effectively scaled across parts of the network.
Research and innovation
We have led a wide-ranging research programme, drawing on expertise from across the UK and internationally. This programme has been ambitious and has sought to explore every plausible opportunity to address poor air quality alongside our network and ensure we achieve real and meaningful improvements.
Our research, summarised in this document, includes:
- reducing emissions from HGVs
- encouraging the switch to electric cars and vans
- viability of alternative cleaner fuels
- the impact of managing traffic different through junctions
- understanding how changing driver behaviour could impact on emissions
- eco-driver training
- physical barriers to block harmful pollutants
- mineral polymer barriers incorporating materials to remove NO2 from the air
- green walls – trialling the use and impact of plants alongside our roads
It’s the nature of research that some ideas work while others are discounted where the research finds they don’t lead to positive improvements. That’s been the case with our programme. We publish the results of all of this work on our Innovation pages to make them available to others, contributing to the wider body of knowledge and informing future activity.
Air quality innovation call
To reach out for ideas, we recently ran a multi-million pound ’Innovation call’ for research funding, for people and organisations who have ideas for improving air quality. Working in partnership with Innovate UK, the Government’s innovations agency, we’re now investing in a number of promising projects and look forward to seeing what impact they can make.
National Air Quality Monitoring Network
To help us monitor the improvements in air quality we’ve established a comprehensive network of continuously monitoring stations – our National Air Quality Monitoring Network.
Working with local authorities
We’re clear that we’ll achieve the greatest results by working with others. We now have an established network of Air Quality Focal Points in our regional teams to support our engagement with local authorities as we jointly tackle air pollution, including Clean Air Zones where applicable.