Proposals to build tunnels over the most polluted sections of motorway in a bid to protect locals from harmful emissions have been slammed by the RAC.
Highways England has revealed in its latest air quality strategy that it’s considering building physical canopies over motorways, using a special material that can soak up NOx emissions. In the report, the government agency says it is “investigating if we can reduce the costs to construct a canopy, which is a tunnel-like structure designed to prevent vehicle emissions reaching our neighbours”.
But the RAC has raised concerns that rather than soaking up toxic fumes, it might instead deflect emissions back into vehicles – potentially causing harm to drivers and passengers.
“We question whether constructing tunnel-like canopies, even if they are made from a material that can partially clean the air, is the right way to deal with the problem,” said the motoring organisation’s spokesman, Nick Lyes. “All this will do is concentrate potentially toxic air over the road which will have an impact on those inside their vehicles who breathe in the trapped pollution.
“The solution should be about reducing levels of pollution by accelerating the transition to ultra-low and zero emission vehicles and encouraging better traffic flow through variable speed limits – something Highways England has started doing on smart motorways.”
Wooden pollution barriers were installed on the M62 near Manchester in 2015, while a three-metre-high fence coated in a nitrogen oxide-absorbing material is currently being trialled.
The measures are part of a £100 million investment by the UK government to improve air quality by 2021.