Engine idling action needed beyond London, says TRL

Transport research group TRL is calling for more to be done to tackle engine idling nationwide.

TRL has urged local authorities to replicate a new evidence-based Idling Action London initiative at the Westminster Commission for Road Air Quality Working Group meeting in a bid to persuade changes of driver behaviour nationwide. As a new public advertising campaign launches this week encouraging all London drivers to turn off their engines when stationary, TRL is emphasising that air pollution is not only a problem in the capital.

In recent years, London has cracked down on coach idling. In January 2020, Westminster City Council closed coach parking bays on Horseferry Road, close to the Houses of Parliament. The move followed warnings in the summer of the previous year that it would take such drastic action due to coach drivers leaving their vehicles idling while parked in the spaces. After complaints persisted and calls to work together on anti-idling campaigns were ignored, the coach parking spots in the city were removed and replaced with EV charging points, cycling hangars and resident parking. The action came as part of Westminster City Council’s #DontBeIdle campaign.

TRL says there is a need to replicate Engine Off campaigns across the rest of the UK to combat the impacts of air pollution on public health more widely. The research group cited a Royal College of Physicians report, which said each year, outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 40,000 premature deaths in the UK, 9,000 of which are in London.

The Idling Action London campaign uses data from a recent TRL study which highlighted the problem faced in highly urbanised areas. Though many individual initiatives exist on a local scale, TRL is advocating the use of its evidence-based approach by local authorities to nurture these initiatives and create new ones, using local real-world data as the basis for a consistent nationwide approach to changing driver behaviour.

Richard Cuerden, Director of the TRL Academy, said: “The TRL Idling Action Research represents the first time we’ve seen real world data and the first time such data has been deployed as part of a public awareness campaign. The findings are startling and significantly worse than previous estimates. We must act now to combat the spectre of air pollution from engine idling.

“There is growing evidence from bodies including Public Heath England and the World Health Organisation that engine emissions and air pollution pose a grave threat to respiratory health. We must act now across the country to reverse the damage and improve the outlook for public health in the future.”

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