Ashley Bijster, Managing Director of Imperial, and Tim Daniels, Sales Director of Videalert, say proven technologies will enable local authorities to meet the demand for cleaner air and reduced traffic congestion in our cities and ensure air quality targets are achieved:
It is now widely acknowledged that the only way to deliver the air quality improvements everyone expects – and has a right to demand – is to foster the required change in urban mobility and travel behaviours. Of course, there’s no panacea and behavioural change is not something that is a given. There will always be contrasting opinions and priorities and inevitable political posturing, but there is little to be gained and plenty to lose by continuing to defer actions to address harmful emissions.
In the absence of any definitive UK-wide directive or a new Clean Air Act that would enshrine the right to clean air, the onus lies with individual local authorities to encourage the required behavioural change. The introduction of Clean Air Zones and low emission zones are certainly steps in the right direction as public pressure and the threat of huge fines continues to mount on the UK. But such laudable initiatives will only be effective as the enforcement applied to the new restrictions.
As we have seen with the recurring abuse and misuse of bus lanes and parking regulations, it is not enough to rely on the goodwill of motorists – just as it wasn’t enough to rely on the goodwill of homeowners to move away from coal fires prior to the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968. All parties directly or indirectly contributing to the unacceptable levels of pollution have responsibilities and an important role to play – and that includes motorists.
The key, therefore, is to encourage compliance with the new clean air restrictions and to create a new ‘norm’ for the way we move, live and work around our towns and cities. To achieve this goal in the shortest timeframe requires collaboration across different sectors, technologies and areas of responsibility.
The immediate challenge facing local authorities is to minimise traffic congestion and discourage the most polluting vehicles from entering designated areas – but without taking risks or incurring significant costs. This points to the need for innovative yet logical and practical solutions that are based on established and widely used technologies rather than taking a plunge into uncharted waters.
Most experts now accept that a charging system based on the Euro standard class of different vehicles and enforced restrictions for the most polluting vehicles entering a Clean Air Zone will be the most effective way to reduce emissions and encourage new behaviours. To that end, the Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) is intending to introduce a common payment portal and validation system to help drive consistency in the implementation and charging strategy for Clean Air Zones around the country. Plans are still at a formative stage and the charges that will be applied to local authorities for the service are yet to be specified and agreed.
However, the requirement to deliver the required air improvement outcomes for the first five cities announced by Defra before the end of 2019 remains cast in stone, so it is vital local authorities prepare for all eventualities and ensure decisive action is taken to implement the appropriate enforcement measures. Irrespective of the new national payment portal system, it will be important for Local Authorities to pre-filter cases captured to minimise the number of false positives (and potentially costs from the JAQU portal) and to ensure cases are reviewed and validated efficiently and expediently before Penalty Charge Notices are issued and processed.
Should there be any delay in formalising the national payment portal, authorities still have the option to capitalise on the proven benefits and effectiveness of a self-serve permit solution in their own areas. This would provide the necessary tiered pricing for different types and classes of vehicle to mitigate any delay in the creation of a national subscription-based portal.
Both Imperial and Videalert are already providing local authorities all over the country with effective enforcement solutions covering virtual vehicle permits and notice processing systems on the one hand and intelligent traffic enforcement CCTV systems on the other. The two companies are now collaborating to bridge the gap between these two disparate areas of technology to provide a proven and integrated solution for managing and enforcing clean air and low emission zones. In other words, the collaboration is enabling existing and reliable surveillance and enforcement technologies to be used in a new area of traffic management to deliver effective cleaner air outcomes. With such experience, the potential move to a national payment portal is then a relatively simple step-change for a local authority and not a leap into unfamiliar territory.
Either way, all authorities will need to use approved CCTV/ANPR surveillance technologies and trusted back office notice processing and management systems to ensure enforcement of clean air zones is reliable, effective, flexible and resilient. That’s why the collaborative approach of Imperial and Videalert is a significant development, as any air quality improvement drive will need to be adapted and refined to reflect behavioural trends and impact – not to mention evolving regulations. And, importantly, the insight and data from such an integrated solution will also support broader smart city objectives where connectivity is of paramount importance.
We look forward to further insights from Ashley and Tim at TRANSPORT Smart Class, South West England & Wales 2018 (Bristol, December 5th), where they’ll be delivering their latest thought leadership presentation and hosting deeper-dive roundtable sessions with delegates. Stakeholders with relevant credentials can apply for one of the last free delegate places by completing the registration form at the bottom of the event page.