The Government has backed down on its plan to impose a Clean Air Zone on the central parts of the city. They have accepted the Council’s preferred plan to reduce nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels within the city in the shortest possible time.
So what exactly are the Council’s plans?
At the heart of the Council’s plan is an engagement programme with businesses, schools and local communities aimed at reducing the number of local journeys made by car, and encouraging alternative, sustainable, modes of travel such as walking, cycling and public transport to be used for these journeys.
This programme is complemented by significant investment in a segregated cycle route between Coundon and the city centre providing a high-quality route that will provide an attractive alternative to driving along the Holyhead Road corridor.
The Council is also working with Transport for West Midlands on the Mobility Credits pilot programme which will give Coventry residents with an older, polluting car the chance to exchange their vehicle for mobility credits. The credits could be spent on bus and rail travel, as well as new transport modes such as car clubs or bikeshare schemes.
The package also focuses upon the “greening of the fleet”, with existing programmes to upgrade the bus, taxi and commercial fleets operating within the city, including the Electric Fleet First project that gives businesses the opportunity to try out electric vans, pool cars and taxis with the aim of encouraging them to switch to zero emission vehicles.
There are also a series of highway improvements aimed at reducing the volume of traffic on Holyhead Road, where NO2 levels are at their greatest. These include improvements on Allesley Old Road at Spon End and at the Butts Junction on the ring road. These will remove capacity constraints on this alternative route into the city centre from the west. Improving capacity on this route will provide the flexibility to divert traffic onto this route from Holyhead Road when air quality conditions on Holyhead Road are identified as being poor. The Council’s modelling suggests that these changes will reduce NO2 levels rather than just move them from Holyhead Road to Allesley Old Road.
Another part of the plan is the opening-up of Upper Hill Street onto the ring road. Barras Lane will be closed and traffic will go from Coundon Road directly onto the Ring Road down Upper Hill Street, with a left turn onto the slip road that runs from the Holyhead Road roundabout. Returning traffic will go round the Holyhead Road roundabout northwards towards the ring road and will be able to turn left into Upper Hill Street. One of the results of these changes is that the traffic signals at Holyhead Road / Barras Lane can be removed to improve traffic flows and reduce emissions.
A further package of traffic management measures are proposed for Foleshill Road, with the aim of removing extraneous through traffic and reducing traffic flows, congestion, and NO2 emissions on this route into the city centre from the north. Through traffic will be encouraged to use the A444 instead, which is the designated route for through traffic accessing the city centre from M6 Junction 3.
Some of the proposed measures in Foleshill include banning right-turns from Cash’s Lane onto Foleshill Road and banning HGV traffic in some areas. The city’s first electric buses will be running through Foleshill and the Council will be introducing bus gates restricting through traffic at certain locations.
The Government has endorsed this package of projects in principle and has awarded the Council £24.5 million in grant funding to deliver it, subject to the Council’s submission of a full business case.
There is a current consultation exercise on the plans which runs from 16th March to 26th April, before the scheme is submitted to the Government in June. The consultation papers are online at https://www.coventry.gov.uk/airquality