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Manchester needs congestion charge zone to cut air pollution deaths, report claims

A congestion charge zone should be introduced in Manchester in order to help with the city’s worst air pollution, according to a new report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North.

Up to 1.6 million years of life could be lost by people dying early in the region in the next century if the problem of toxic air is not tackled the study shows.

“This is equivalent to each of us having our life expectancy reduced by six months,” the report states.

“Using the 2011 baseline, NO2 pollution alone was estimated to have caused up to 1,781 premature deaths in Greater Manchester and particulate matter pollution up to 1,906 premature deaths.”

“The levels of air pollution in Greater Manchester are lethal and illegal.”

Devolution allows the Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham to rapidly take control of the clean air agenda and introduce a congestion charge zone.

“National government must act urgently, too, to give the mayor the tools necessary to save lives and the £1bn annual cost to the Greater Manchester economy,” the report adds.

The region has a similar air pollution problem to London, caused mostly by vehicle emissions, but lacks the powers and strategies to tackle it, the IPPR claims.

London’s charge was first introduced in 2003 and resulted in roughly a 10 per cent reduction in traffic over the next decade.

Although by 2017 traffic volumes ultimately rose to nearly what they were before the introduction of the charge, TfL believes that conditions would be worse without the Congestion Charging scheme

Sarah Longlands, director of IPPR North, said: “The human cost of this air pollution crisis to Greater Manchester cannot be overstated.

“People’s lives are being cut short, our children’s health is being put at risk and this is before you even consider the £1bn annual economic burden that poor quality air places on the local economy.

“For too long, the debate on air pollution has been focused on London, but now for the first time we understand the full extent of the problem in Greater Manchester.

“We simply cannot allow this to continue. There must be no delay.”

On public transport, Greater Manchester has one of the worst polluting bus fleets of any city in the UK with only 15 electric buses, whereas London has over 500.

Greater Manchester has the highest rates of emergency admissions to hospital for asthma in the whole country, double the national average, while Manchester ranks as the second worst council in England for ‘PM10’ pollution - pollutants from exhausts fumes and construction, which are linked to conditions such as lung cancer and asthma.

The cost of air pollution to the region is put at £1bn a year in the report, with its findings based on projections for air pollution up to 2030 and beyond.

The report calls on Mr Burnham to pledge to tackle the problem by transforming the region’s out-dated bus fleet, consider a clean-air charging zone and do more to monitor and publicise air pollution levels.

Last year, London Mayor Sadiq Khan outlined plans to extend the congestion charge so that the most heavily polluting cars and vans are charged an additional daily fee of £12.50 to enter the city centre from 2019. 

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