Work on cutting NO2 emissions will leave long term legacy for city

Published Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Work on a segregated cycle route between the city centre and Coundon would never have started if Coventry had been forced by the government to accept a charging clean air zone, according to city councillors.

The message is being reinforced as council members take a final look at the city’s air quality plan - which includes a series of highway schemes aimed at reducing congestion and facilitating traffic management on the routes into the city centre from the west - including Holyhead Road, where NO2 levels are at their highest.

The plan will go to the Council’s Scrutiny Committee next week and by Cabinet at the start of December.

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, said: “This is the final stage in a long process where the Council has convinced the government that it could address air quality by designing improved transport schemes rather than simply charging motorists.

“We’ll be starting work on the city centre to Coundon cycleway in the coming weeks, followed by a number of other improvement schemes as part of a £24.5 million in grant funding for the implementation of this package.

“In other words we are going to be able to make long lasting changes to local road networks while encouraging people to look at more sustainable travel choices.”

It is expected that the Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit will give the green light to the schemes.

The Council has secured a further £5.8 million in grant funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Transforming Cities Fund for the B4101 Spon End scheme, which forms one of the highway schemes within the package.

Engagement work undertaken on the A4600 corridor in 2018-20 (funded through early measures from the Joint Air Quality Unit) resulted in increased active travel and mode shift. School car journeys near the A4600, reduced by 8.5 per cent as people transferred to walking, cycling and scootering. Residents also reduced single occupancy car trips by 11 per cent, with an increase in walking and bus trips of 9 per cent. 

There are a range of other projects that complement this package of measures by encouraging the uptake of zero emission vehicles. These include the installation of one of the most extensive networks of electric vehicle charging points in the country, with around 250 charging points installed to date and funding being secured for a further 100. 

The Council has worked with National Express and Transport for West Midlands to secure funding for 10 electric buses, which entered operation within the city in August 2020. This project includes the installation of solar panels and battery storage at the bus depot, meaning that the power used to run the buses is generated on site. 

The Council has also secured funding from Highways England for the E-Fleet project, and is in the process of procuring 70 electric vehicles, mostly vans, that will operate as part of the Council’s fleet, but will also be available for local businesses to borrow and trial on a “try before you buy” basis.

Cllr Patricia Hetherton, Cabinet Member for City Services, added: “We have taken so many positive steps in recent years and this plan is the culmination of that process.

“We hope to have the first phase of the Coundon Cycleway scheme open in mid-2021, and the other schemes will follow after that.

“We’ve secured funding for these projects and more importantly we can gradually encourage motorists to look at other travel options by education rather than enforcement. 

“Clearly, the impact of COVID-19 has caused delays but we are confident we can get the engagement programme with schools and businesses fully started in early 2021 to run through to March 2024.

“It’s about encouraging and behaviour change over the longer term.”

Balfour Beatty has been appointed as the programme manager for the various highways schemes and design work has commenced. 

Once detailed designs have been prepared, t there will be consultation with local communities, and at that stage there will the opportunity for a review of the proposals and any amendments to the package of measures to be made. 

The Full Business Case, and the additional funding request, will be submitted for Cabinet consideration at its meeting on 1 December 2020.

The target date for delivery of the measures outlined in the local plan is March 2024, although the infrastructure measures are planned for construction well in advance of that date, with the Coundon Cycle Route being completed in mid-2021 and the remaining highway measures by late 2021 or early 2022. 

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