Tunnels to tackle air pollution

Major roads across the UK could be covered in large pollution-absorbing tunnels in order to reduce emission fuels.

Currently being investigated by the Highway Agency, the tunnels are part of a Dutch scheme which uses ‘cantilevered canopies’ covered with pollution-absorbing material in a bid to improve air quality and prevent surrounding residents from noxious car fumes.

The plans have been included within the clean air strategy which was announced at the end of July. The strategy follows environmental reports that 40,000 premature deaths per year are the result of air pollution. The Department of Transport has further predicted an increase of 55% in traffic volumes between 2010 and 2040.

An agency spokesman, commented ‘The best solution to accommodating the extra traffic on our roads, without negatively impacting on air quality, is cleaner low-emission vehicles. In the meantime we are investing £100m to test new ideas including less-polluting fuels and road barriers which can absorb harmful emissions.’

‘We have identified that a cantilever barrier or canopy, which is a tunnel-like structure designed to prevent vehicle emissions, might be a possible solution, though the air quality benefits of this are still to be fully understood. We are now working with the Dutch Roads Authority to measure air quality around an existing cantilever barrier on their network.’

The government is investing millions of pounds into the clean air plan, which is also set to ban the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars by 2040, so to accelerate the movement towards electric vehicles. In order to facilitate this, the government aims to further implement EV charging points every 20 miles on 95% of the road network.