Town With Cathedral In Background

17 June 2021

Towns and cities given rare air quality insight with Ricardo reports

World-leading environmental, engineering and strategic consultancy Ricardo has provided local authorities with unique air quality analysis reports.

For the first time, towns and cities can now see how their air quality would be affected month-by-month when there are significantly reduced numbers of vehicles on the roads. All reports from Ricardo’s analysis have been published on Air Quality England or on Scottish Government’s Air Quality in Scotland website.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdowns created a unique opportunity for Ricardo specialists to study what impact a sudden, sharp drop in road transport emissions would have on air quality in the UK over a sustained period, producing revealing data that would have otherwise been impossible to obtain.

Data from the resultant analysis has been compiled into dynamic online reports which give more than 100 of Ricardo’s local authority customers throughout England and Scotland powerful insight into a novel set of figures.

Paul Willis, Air Quality Business Area Manager at Ricardo, said: “The lockdowns gave us a unique opportunity to analyse the extent of air quality improvements that could be achieved by national and local governments if large numbers of polluting motor vehicles can be taken off the roads. I’m really proud of the innovative data modelling and analysis that my team has put together to help our customers understand what their ongoing air quality measurements programmes are telling them in these unprecedented times.”

“We have received very positive feedback from our customers about the reports.”

In York, many of the monitoring stations reported monthly reductions in nitrogen dioxide of more than 10 µgm-3 compared to those expected, and over the full year of 2020 overall NO2 levels were down by more than 20%.

Andrew Gillah, York’s Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Air Quality) commented: “The COVID-19 lockdown provided an unexpected and unique opportunity to study York’s air quality in the absence of normal traffic levels. Ricardo’s bespoke analysis has provided invaluable information with respect to the potential impacts of the lockdown across City of York Council’s area.”

Paul added: “We regularly produce air quality data, but the combination of great technology and brilliant people allowed us to give our customers important value-added insight into local concentrations. Whilst the past year has undoubtedly been challenging, the various lockdowns have provided a useful opportunity to develop the capability to run the analysis and publish this value-added data automatically.”
The figures will be used to inform future policies and encourage behaviour change.

Read COVID19 lockdown effects on air quality in York report here.

Read COVID19 lockdown effects on air quality in City of Glasgow report here.