Letter: How to curb car pollution

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The Independent Online
Sir: The aim to reduce the volume of traffic by 10 per cent against the 1990 level by 2010 (letter, 2 June; leading article, 31 May) is worthy but subject to the vagaries of human behaviour.

There is a view that people will bear considerable financial pain and practical inconvenience before reducing their reliance on the car. What must be acknowledged is that the first-order problem is pollution, because it is life-threatening. There will only be a guaranteed reduction in pollution if emission limits for vehicles are set by law and rigorously enforced.

First, emission limits should be imposed on all vehicles entering town and city centres. By a specific date only vehicles that meet, say, the Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) standard adopted by California would be allowed access. In the longer term, zero emission vehicles would be the only ones within city centres.

Second, makers of all vehicles sold in the UK should be subject to progressively severe Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations, as imposed in the United States. This legislation would propel manufacturers into the mass production of hybrid fossil fuel-electric or bi-fuel or dedicated compressed natural gas vehicles, which are already in prototype existence.

Of course public transport must also be made an attractive and ultra- low-pollution proposition. Stringent town and city centre pollution limits would drive bus operators into replacing diesel stock with low to zero emission vehicles.

We now have a government that places human welfare above market forces. It is also pledged to an integrated transport policy with an environmental thrust. This must include direct and indirect legislative pressure on manufacturers. If it can happen in the US, how much more should it be possible here.

Professor PETER F SMITH

Chairman, Environment and Planning Committee

Royal Institute of British Architects

London W1

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