Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The air pollution-transport divide: Why after two decades of statutory obligations is road transport derived air pollution not declining?

Chatterton, Tim; Parkhurst, Graham


Tim Chatterton


Road transport is the principal cause of air pollution in over 95% of legally designated “Air Quality Management Areas” in the UK. Current estimates are that over 50,000 deaths a year can be attributed to air pollution in this country – between 15 and 30 times the annual number of deaths associated with road traffic accidents (RTAs) (2000-2013). Yet, despite this massive discrepancy, RTAs continue to be the primary concern of transport planners whilst, at best, air pollution has been designated a “shared priority” between Defra and DfT (with research demonstrating that even then, “a shared priority does not mean an equal priority”).

Air Pollution is just the grossest manifestation though of a general failure of transport planning to take the environmental impacts of transport choices sufficiently into account (including noise, physical activity, quality of public space etc.). This paper will present some of the coarsest examples of this and consider some of the reasons why it might arise – is it just that RTAs provide the more salient form of death due to the externalised costs of transport? Can it be that this is just another manifestation of a lack of joined up government? Are there just problems with the lack of a firm material chain of cause and effect over the short-term? Or might there be some complex economic, social and cultural factors at play?

Presented by academics who have worked closely with policy on both sides of the transport-environment divide, the paper will bring to bear experiences of the political pecking order between government departments, theoretical analyses of the transport planning “system of provision”, and the increasing individualisation of health issues.


Chatterton, T., & Parkhurst, G. (2016, August). The air pollution-transport divide: Why after two decades of statutory obligations is road transport derived air pollution not declining?. Presented at RGS-IGB Annual International Conference

Presentation Conference Type Lecture
Conference Name RGS-IGB Annual International Conference
Start Date Aug 30, 2016
End Date Sep 2, 2016
Acceptance Date Jul 19, 2016
Publication Date Aug 30, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jan 26, 2017
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords transport, air quality, policy, UK
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference 2016


You might also like

Downloadable Citations