One of the matters of greatest concern to us is traffic congestion and air pollution in the city. The entire main road network in Bath has been designated an Air Quality Management Area due to nitrogen dioxide levels above the safe health limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre. High levels of nitrogen dioxide are linked to respiratory disease, heart disease and early death.
These levels of air pollution are almost entirely due to road traffic, and Heavy Goods Vehicles contribute a disproportionate amount of pollution relative to their numbers. They can also cause serious congestion as they try to negotiate Bath’s narrow streets.
Failure to observe HGV limits is a moving traffic offence; the enforcement of the limits is a police responsibility. We are concerned that in practice there is almost no enforcement of HGV limits in the city.
In particular, there is a 7.5 tonne limit on the A4 through the centre of Bath. The A4 route includes Queen Square and George Street and significant numbers of HGV pass through this area without any checks being applied. Traffic counts have shown 220 HGV movements a day at The Paragon junction with Broad Street. It is a matter of everyday observation by our members that HGVs pass through the city which are unlikely to be making deliveries – for example double trailer lorries with shipping containers.
We recognise that some of this HGV traffic is making legitimate deliveries in the city. But when the Police last, to our knowledge, conducted systematic checks on HGVs in October 2009, they found a significant proportion were just passing through and had no justification for being in the city centre.
B&NES Council is proposing an 18 tonne limit on vehicles turning left from Bathwick Street to Beckford Road and vice-versa. If this can be successfully implemented and enforced, it should result in a significant reduction in the heaviest HGV traffic along Bathwick Street and London Road. However, it will be a pointless exercise if the limit is not enforced.
There are a significant number of ANPR cameras throughout the city. Could these not be used to help in the detection of violations? Clearly the fact that an HGV is recorded in the city does not of itself mean that an offence has been committed. However, if a vehicle was recorded at, say, the London Road/Cleveland Bridge junction and then on the Upper Bristol Road within 15 minutes, that would constitute prima facie evidence that the HGV limit had been breached, since it would not have had time to make a delivery. If, when served with a notice of breach of the HGV limit, the owners could produce a relevant delivery record that would of course exonerate them. The technology must exist to automate such a system. Most of us have seen how effectively the London Congestion Zone is enforced using ANPR, as are yellow box junctions in the capital, so we believe there is real scope to do more about HGV's in Bath.