Air Quality – Turning a crisis into an opportunity

The improved air quality in our major cities has been one of the few bright spots of the national lockdown. Westcotec, a leading traffic safety systems manufacturer, is leading the way with the supply of air quality monitoring devices and specialist systems to help combat high pollution levels and ease congestion. In this article, it argues that local authorities can be bold and turn a crisis into an opportunity.

Since the UK was hit with the outbreak of COVID-19, Westcotec has been analysing data from its array of air quality monitors around the country – including a first of its kind network in Central Bedfordshire – and downloading traffic data from more than 10,000 of its vehicle activated signs.

This network is the result of Westcotec being at the forefront of the vehicle activated sign industry since being founded in 2001. Based in Norfolk, it has grown to become one of the biggest suppliers of intelligent traffic safety systems in the UK with its own manufacturing capability and providing bespoke solutions with fast turnarounds to suit individual traffic safety requirements.

Innovation has always been critical to Westcotec’s business, and the strong relationship it has built up with local authorities has allowed it to continually develop products and create specific solutions to meet and exceed client’s needs.

What can we achieve?

The use of a real-time air monitoring system, with a public interface, will allow members of the public to see the impact that their choices are having. By making this information available, someone who would regularly drive to work might decide to cycle or walk in. This decision, if taken by many, would begin to improve the air quality of the area, and this could all be visible on the platform, as well as the unit itself.

There is an LED strip, which will display a particular colour to display the level of air quality. As seen in the project with Central Bedfordshire Council, Westcotec installed informative plate signs below the units, to give details on the colour of an LED.

This data can also be used to trigger vehicles activated signs (VAS) to divert vehicles around areas that are currently experiencing high levels of pollution. If a city/town centre is experiencing significantly high pollution levels, vehicles such as HGVs can be diverted via the signage to avoid these areas.

The main aim is to encourage highway users to utilise sustainable transport, which is in keeping with the company’s culture and policy. For every piece of equipment, Westcotec manufactures and sells, a tree is planted on company owned land located in the village of Fransham, Norfolk. To date, over 10,000 trees have been planted.

Act now

Chair of the ADEPT engineering board, Mark Stevens, who also sits on the UK Roads Liaison Group (UKRLG), said: ‘Part of the thinking is that action needs to take place fairly quickly and that is happening in local authorities at the moment. There are some really strong lessons to be learned here from an environmental and sustainable travel perspective, and I think that’s what we have to capitalise on.’

The data being analysed since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK has shown what can be achieved with reduced vehicle use against air quality.

With exceptionally low air pollution levels monitoring devices are developing a baseline data set centred on only essential travel. If authorities install now, they can track this with real-time monitoring as normality slowly returns. This is one of the greatest opportunities available to implement appropriate interventions in relevant locations with the ability to obtain accurate and timely data, enabling discussions on the available interventions such as electronic diversion signage and an increased push to sustainable travel.

Westcotec is available for a free consultation at sales@westcotec.co.uk