Its pollution

Thousands of diesel vehicles are choking Cambridge roads – survey reveals


Vehicles were captured over five million times, travelling into, out of, and through Cambridge in a single week - a recent survey recorded.


New figures published today by the Greater Cambridge Partnership – a council-business-academic growth consortium - from one of the largest traffic surveys of its kind in the UK. The survey provides an up-to-date snapshot of the city’s road network and to inform transport projects.


The Partnership have released the data as part of their Our Big Conversation series – speaking and listening to residents on Cambridge’s growth story this autumn. 7000 people have completed the travel survey so far and over 30 public events organised – feedback collected to date suggests congestion is a key concern.


The survey was carried out over an eight day period in June by an independent firm, using cutting-edge Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras. Over 90 cameras were installed temporarily around the city, covering an area between the historic city centre and the A14 and M11 surrounding the city. All the results of the traffic survey were anonymous.


For example, over 113,000 individual vehicle were captured on Wednesday 14 June. The overall breakdown of vehicles on Cambridge’s roads across the survey week includes approximately 86% cars and 12% vans/lorries.


Over half (55.5%) of the cars recorded in the survey were diesel, with the vast majority of buses and goods vehicles also being diesel. Cambridge has a recognised air quality problem, with Nitrogen Dioxide exceeding recommended levels. Traffic in busy city centre streets is estimated to contribute up to 70-90% of locally generated air pollution, with 47 associated deaths every year.


The survey provides a comprehensive dataset for the region’s Transport Planners. As an example of information collected, the survey shows that on Wednesday 14 June at Gonville Place, up to 23% of passing traffic was found to be older than Euro 4 emissions standards, and if Cambridge copied London’s recently introduced ‘Toxicity Charge’, those vehicles would face such a charge.


Alternatively, if a charge was based on the forthcoming London Ultra Low Emissions Zone principles (levying charges on petrol vehicles older than Euro 4 and diesel vehicles older than Euro 6) the survey results indicated that around 60% of vehicles would face that charge. 


Improving air quality is a key priority for the Partnership. They are currently researching creating a Clean Air Zone in the city, which could involve a pollution charge or restricting vehicles due to their age or emissions. 


Councillor Francis Burkitt, Chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership, said: “This traffic survey provides us with robust evidence and an even greater understanding of vehicle use in Cambridge.  We will be using this data to inform future transport projects for the city.


“We hope to make this data publicly available soon, and will continue to work with the community to design transport solutions that are correct for our environment”.


Transport Experts from the Greater Cambridge Partnership team are now working through the high volume of data to help make decisions on future plans and funding. This survey data will be used with other evidence sources to update the region’s modelling system.


Further analysis from the vehicle survey will be published in early 2018. A number of public events are organised until the end of November as part of Our Big


Notes to Editors


For further information and queries, please contact Livia Oldland on 07468 766360/


The Greater Cambridge Partnership is working to bring about a step-change in travel in Greater Cambridge, to accommodate the ever-growing number of trips and to keep people and business moving well into the future.


The Partnership commissioned an independent firm to carry out the traffic survey over seven continuous days in June (10-17), within school and university term time.


The survey used cutting-edge Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology. The information collected by the ANPR cameras were sanitised to remove any personal data and therefore the results are completely anonymous and individuals or specific vehicles are not identifiable.


Poor air quality affects everyone. It can have long term impacts on all and immediate effects on vulnerable people with a disproportionate impact on the young and the old, the sick and the poor. Air pollution causes diseases of the heart and lungs, contributes to poor health and shortens life. There is an increasing body of evidence of associations between long term exposure to small particles and Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, low birth weight and developmental outcomes in children such as reduced lung function. Diesel engine exhaust has been classified as carcinogenic to humans by the World Health Organisation. 

Public Health data attributed to 257 deaths in Cambridgeshire in 2010 due to the effect of small particles, compared with 34 from road traffic accidents. These figures do not include the effect of nitrogen dioxide, which have not yet been officially estimated.


‘Our Big Conversation’ on Cambridge’s growth story continues with a number of community and public events until the end of November:

  • 10/11/2017, 10.30am-12.30pm, Community pop-up at Gamlingay Ecohub
  • 17/11/2017, 10am-12am, Children’s Takeover Day at The Guildhall, Cambridge
  • 25/11/2017, 9am-5pm, Hack the City Wayfinding Hackathon, Bradfield Centre
  • 28/11/2017, 6-8pm, Briefing and workshop at Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Frank Lee Centre

For all Greater Cambridge Partnership events, please visit our




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