The Volkswagen emissions scandal has made us look closer at how much pollution cars, buses, wagons, and motorbikes pump out onto our roads on a daily basis. Thousands of vehicles cross one of London's most famous landmarks every day and when Tower Bridge is raised, to let ships through, queuing traffic belches out high levels of toxic fumes into the Capital's air.
In an attempt to alleviate the problem, signs have been installed on the approach to the bridge telling drivers to “please turn your engine off for cleaner air and to save money and fuel” when the bridge is raised. Pollution concerns were raised further when a recent Department of Transport survey discovered that ten of the slowest roads in England are all in London. To discover how high these levels are the Department of Transport has funded a three-week trial, costing £149,000, to measure emissions produced by passing vehicles.
Believed to be the first of its kind in Europe, the scheme involves the use of new pollution cameras proposed by scientists at the Universities of Birmingham and Leeds, along with Kings College London. Developed by Stewart Hager, a former NASA scientist, the cameras are positioned above the road where a laser beam is passed through the vehicles exhaust fumes. Metal strips across the lane help the cameras to detect changes in the light which are then used to give a reading showing the level of emissions produced. Two cameras were installed on a temporary basis. The first, for a period of four days, was on Marylebone Road opposite Madame Tussaud's. The second was positioned in Blackheath for a period of five days. Once the trials are complete scientists will measure the effectiveness of the technology by comparing the data collected with existing air pollution monitoring stations.
Transport minister, Andrew Jones, said: “This newly-emerging technology is another example of British universities taking the lead in this area.” Adding “We are pleased to support important work that improves our understanding of the impact that vehicle emissions have on air quality levels. It is early days for these cameras, but these first trials will help the development of air quality testing in the future.”