Sections of the UK’s motorway network could be covered by canopies incorporating pollution-absorbing materials as part of new air quality improvement measures.
The Highways Agency, which is responsible for Britain’s motorways, has revealed that it is considering using a tunnel-like structure to prevent road traffic emissions from spreading.
In its latest strategy report, it said tests on an air quality barrier fitted to a 100-metre section of the M62 in the north of England had shown positive results. Installed in 2015, its height was increased from four to six metres high in 2016 and incorporates a new polymer material that can absorb tailpipe emissions.
The Highways Agency has previously trialled this coating, which 'eats' nitrogen oxides (NOx), as part of ongoing research into reducing the level of vehicle emissions that escape road sections.
The studies come as part of 10 wider investigations planned to take place between 2015 and 2018. They also include techniques to reduce traffic, boost the uptake of electric vans and modernise the UK’s heavy goods vehicle (HGV) fleet, as well as growing the number of charging stations along routes.
Transport pollution accounts for about 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions output. The increase in the number of diesel vehicles in recent years has also increased NOx output, which some experts have linked to a rise in the number of premature deaths associated with poor air quality to 40,000 per year.