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Air quality and traffic movements to be measured during Mill Road bridge closure in Cambridge

Air quality and traffic movements are being studied during the temporary closure of the Mill Road bridge this summer.

New air monitoring equipment has been purchased by Cambridge City Council using grant funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and will be deployed in and around Mill Road.

The Smart Cambridge programme is using the eight-week closure of the bridge by Govia Thameslink to gather data on the impact on surrounding roads.

The first day closure of Mill Rd bridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (13260694)
The first day closure of Mill Rd bridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (13260694)

Cllr Rosy Moore, executive councillor for climate change, environment and city centre, said: “This is an excellent opportunity to monitor air quality as a result of a change in the traffic flows in and around Mill Road.

“Working with Cambridgeshire County Council, the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP_ and the University of Cambridge allows us to pool all of our data and provide understanding of how interventions of this nature affect air quality, traffic flows and people’s behaviour.”

The new air quality monitoring equipment is being used on Mill Road and surrounding roads during and after the closure to provide detailed data throughout the day that will help identify emerging trends. It will be used alongside existing air monitoring methods.

Meanwhile, the Smart Cambridge programme, which is led by the county council and part of the GCP, will analyse the traffic data.

As it becomes available, the GCP and city council will publish the data on their websites and the findings will be used to help plan infrastructure improvements.

Claire Ruskin, executive board member for the Greater Cambridge Partnership, said: “We need robust data on how people use our roads and this is a real chance to gain an understanding of how thousands of people move in, through and around this area.

“Taking this opportunity to collect data while Mill Road bridge is closed and then reopened to vehicles means the Smart Cambridge programme can better understand the impact road closures and road works have on traffic levels and routes. Understanding this will inform future decisions about managing increased congestion and providing solutions for getting people around our city.”

Exhaust fumes (14028449)
Exhaust fumes (14028449)

Public health data from 2013 attributed 47 deaths in Cambridge and 257 deaths throughout Cambridgeshire to particulate air pollution. This compared to 34 that year from road traffic accidents. Air pollution is linked to heart and lung diseases, shortens lifespans and particularly affects children and older people

While air quality has been slowly improving in most parts of Cambridge in recent years, there remains high levels of nitrogen dioxide in parts, particularly the busy city centre streets, primarily from exhaust fumes.

Nitrogen dioxide levels in 2018 were slightly lower than in 2017, in line with national trends, but levels of particulate matter known as PM10 actually rose slightly, while PM2.5 levels remained the same across the city. Nationally, levels of both PM10 and PM2.5 were stable from 2015-18.

The city council has an air quality action plan designed to reduce emissions, keep pollutant levels below national levels and improve public health.

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