New data, sourced by Siemens Mobility Limited in partnership with HERE Technologies, shows that traffic levels in Edinburgh and Glasgow have exceeded pre-pandemic levels, sparking fears about air quality.
Daily traffic in Edinburgh is 7% higher in comparison to February 2020, with Glasgow reporting traffic levels of 4% higher than those pre-pandemic.
With the Scottish Government easing COVID-19 restrictions with plans to open up the country further in the coming weeks, there are concerns about further air pollution increases as people move around more freely.
The findings also show that the Winter 2021 lockdown had a far smaller impact on traffic compared to the first lockdown in Spring 2020. The data shows that traffic levels in these cities were more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels in February 2021. In contrast, the first lockdown saw traffic levels more than halve in both cities when compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Despite these trends, both Edinburgh and Glasgow have taken the decision to pause the implementation of Clean Air Zones.
Wilke Reints, Managing Director Intelligent Traffic Systems at Siemens Mobility Limited, commented: “It’s been well documented that the COVID-19 pandemic had an almost instant positive effect on air quality. However, this latest data shows that levels have quickly bounced back, despite stringent restrictions in Scotland.
“This raises a concern as to the potential increase in traffic and associated emissions with cities reporting air quality levels at least comparable to, or in this case worse than, pre-lockdown levels.”
He continued: “The traffic levels documented in Edinburgh and Glasgow surpass pre-COVID levels and this follows a similar trend across the UK. Air quality is the most significant environmental risk to human health and both cities must continue to address this problem by continuing to progress Clean Air Zone plans to protect the health of the public.”