Why Edinburgh Council's cover up of air pollution matters....today
(Note links to data sources mentioned are embedded in the text..click to access)
In France the possibility of banning diesel vehicles from Paris is being discussed.
Air pollution in the UK shortens the lives of 28,000 people a year according to the latest estimate.
According to the published official figures it causes 205 deaths every year in Edinburgh.
The politicians will now doubtless tell us that the issue of air pollution was not *well understood* and is now *rising up the agenda* and almost inevitably that "something must be done".
The first thing Edinburgh Council need to do is face the fact they DID know about this issue as long ago as 2003 but they ignored it because they feared to open it up to proper debate would make the tram project, never the subject of great public support, utterly impossible to go ahead with. Since then they have resolutely tried to suppress the concerns of a small group residents who have tried to point out the dangers of blindly pressing on with the project.
Both the government and in particular Edinburgh City Council will make much of this supposed fact that they didn't know that air pollution was such a big Public Health threat.
Edinburgh Council in particular will have no justification for saying this however because they have actively covered-up data and suppressed warnings made repeatedly and clearly that one of the biggest and clearest effects of the Tram project they promoted would be that it will RAISE air pollution within the city, that this air pollution is dangerous and the deaths and chronic illnesses it creates dwarf the deaths from Road Traffic accidents AND passive smoking--combined.
They were told in 2009 that in terms of mortality rate in early deaths (*lost life years* in the offical language) that traffic created air pollution is THREE TIMES bigger than the effects of Road Traffic accidents AND Passive Smoking combined.
They were told by the main feasibility study into all aspects of the Trams, in 2003, the hundreds of pages long STAG2003 report that building the tram as designed would create MORE traffic pollution for 60% of ALL households in the ENTIRE city.............in the streets where people live.
They were told that measuring pollution levels in the streets emptied of traffic to a great extent---the old 'main roads' of princes Street and George street--while NOT measuring it in the new 'main roads' formerly quieter, residential streets, would be little short of shameful and scandalous.
However the attitude of the council was then, and still is, governed to the exclusion of all considerations by the perceived requirements of the tram project.
Although an abject failure for the city in financial costs, project management and public health in any measurable terms, the council administration and executive oligopoly still see it as necessary to suppress the inconvenient truths about pollution within the city as they seek to extend the project further.
The fact that the tram was always predicted to increase pollution has been suppressed... indeed most people who see the prediction in the table in the STAG 2003 report, including many councillors supposedly having oversight of the project, still have tremendous trouble in accepting it, such is the emotional impact of the word "Tram".
Of course it IS "The vehicles who create the pollution" It does so by *seizing* wide, trunk and sub-arterial roadways for its exclusive use...a design flaw that itself was suppressed in the planning and construction phase, when it was routinely said in council documents "Trams can share roadspace with traffic" giving the precise opposite impression to the known and planned reality.
Trams, can of course share roadspace, and do, in many cities. However that was never the intention in OUR city, and while the form of words above routinely trotted out in the pre-construction, and construction, phases is not untrue, it isn't the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth about how the project would really work, and never was.
The main characteristic of our tram project that creates more pollution is exactly in the act of displacing traffic onto less capable and efficient roads, where more congestion inevitably results in more pollution. Traffic moving very slowly or standing still is the very worst type of traffic for creating pollution.
Just because the original project disintegrated however doesn't change anything for the council.
To *stop* , especially on the eve of a public inquiry, and admit any of this, would be to admit fundamental mistakes in the size, design speed and main road running that not only increases pollution but displace it..from mainly business and shopping streets, where people *visit* to the doorsteps of their homes, where people spend most of their lives. The cascade of consequences from admitting one error means the Council is unable to admit any, and so continues onward compounding the problems more and more.
It is a well quoted statistic that most traffic accidents occur very close to people's homes. This is simply because most people tend to spend most time near their homes, and this is why the displacement of even the same amount of pollution to places people will live is expected to create more ill effects of health...because people then are MORE exposed for LONGER, to, in fact, HIGHER levels of pollution.
For over a century the thrust of transport and civic planning has been to take pollution AWAY from homes and move industry, and the traffic it creates, onto specially planned arterial roadways, where possible away from homes.
The dirty secret at the heart of the tram project is that to save money on managing traffic this has been reversed.
The displacement of traffic into residential streets isn't a little understood consequence arising from the project it is a major cost that was in effect pushed *Off Balance Sheet*, in the hope that either the dots would not be connected as to how this came about or, perhaps, the bad effects of pollution would maybe not turn out to be so bad after all.
Unfortunately---for the Council executives then and now--- it is turning out to be worse than even the most pessimistic reckoned back at the turn of the century.
The displaced traffic was simply pushed from the Council's collective mind and is being allowed, in effect, to find it's own way around streets which as the map shows then become more polluted, and also around streets where Schools were built specifically because they were *away from main roads*---not any more they won't be in Edinburgh where the only thing that matters to the Council is never having to say they were wrong.
And to return to the beginning .... that report advising that schools be built away from main road traffic?
In Edinburgh this map shows how main road traffic is being displaced FROM main roads and ONTO streets where schools ARE....schools built to be AWAY from main roads are having that main road traffic sent TO them now--as a result of flawed policies and the mindset of denial inside the upper echelons of the Council.
The map was created by a resident using the Council's OWN data, facts, figures and predicted effects of the tram project in THEIR OWN traffic modelling.
(NOTE re the 'pollution map' you can link to from this document.)
The data was produced in 2008 BY the Council themselves. It shows two routes where traffic falls enormously, Princes Street and Leith Walk----obviously at this stage the tram was supposed to get down Leith Walk for the original £545M cost...as we NOW know it did not, not even for the £1.1Billion (and counting) cost.
However the planners didn't know that at this time..they didn't know their TIE Ltd company would go bust or they'd have to borrow £231M at a cost on top of £228M interest...but I suppose we all make mistakes.
The increased traffic is many miles from any tram line of course as central routes...having lost so much roadspace to the tram.... become more and more congested, the traffic decants (rat-runs) further and further afield to find 'a way across the city'.
As yet of course the tram does not run down Leith Walk and this data is built on the scenario that it is or will be.
The rise in pollution on the doorstep does not happen one day, week, month or year from the start of the trams running but in the STAG 2003 report, when the trams were expected to begin in 2010 the rise was predicted to happen over 16 more years!!
a) Do not believe any council official who dismisses rising traffic as 'impossible to manage': They have MADE it worse than it needed to be
b) We ain't seen nothing yet.