After all, it is only a handful of months since people noticed – and welcomed – a discernible improvement in air quality during the first lockdown when there was so little traffic on the roads.
But, more recently, the opening up of the economy has seen nitrogen dioxide levels reaching pre-pandemic levels in many towns and cities – notably Barnsley and Bradford in this region. Now there’s one obvious explanation for this – and this the reluctance of a great many commuters to use public transport until the Covid vaccine has been rolled out.
Yet, while it is understandable that politicians want to discourage unnecessary use of trains and buses, or a return to the rush hour overcrowding before the pandemic, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps – and others – are going to have to come up with a plan to address these concerns and change perceptions.
Nevertheless policy-makers, whether they be local, regional and national, need to recognise that the climate crisis remains an even greater threat to the region’s future health and wealth than Covid. And it is why local authorities should be following the advice of the Centre for Cities think-tank and putting in place measures to promote public transport, cycling and walking. If not, car usage will become even more prevalent – the precise opposite of the public mood during the first lockdown when there was a genuine desire for a change of direction.
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