Letter: How drivers can switch off city-centre air pollution

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Sir: During July this year the levels of air pollution in central Oxford - due primarily to the exhaust fumes from stationary buses and coaches - were quite appalling. The public did not need measurements and meters to confirm this. One visit into town was enough to dissuade anyone from returning unless they absolutely had to. Retail sales in city-centre shops were markedly down, in a year that has otherwise shown steady growth.

For the past six months or so I have been trying to follow the practice of switching off my car engine (a 'clean' diesel) whenever I expect to be stationary for more than about five seconds. I am getting used to it, but the reaction of my passengers demonstrates how uncomfortable we have all come to feel sitting out in the road without 'power'.

It is not, as Deborah Moggach suggests in her open letter to John Gummer, a 'deep-seated male insecurity'. Rather a culture of unreliable engines that may not restart quickly leads to fear of embarrassment. Perhaps the Swiss maintain their cars and buses better.

Yours,

JULIAN MORRIS

Appleton, Oxfordshire

12 September

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