Hammersmith council expands air pollution trial fining drivers £130 for taking shortcut routes

People living around Wandsworth Bridge Road have asked for the trial to be rolled out in their area  (Wandsworth council)
People living around Wandsworth Bridge Road have asked for the trial to be rolled out in their area (Wandsworth council)

An air pollution reduction trial is expanding across Fulham, which could see non-local drivers fined £130 for attempting to take shortcuts in the area.

Number plate recognition cameras have been set up east of Wandsworth Bridge Road in south Fulham to stop drivers from outside the borough trying to cut through residential streets in order to save time on their journey.

In a bid to reduce non-essential traffic and harmful nitrogen dioxide levels in residential streets, these drivers are issued with a warning and, eventually, could be fined £130.

“All they’re doing is adding pollution to little streets. Fulham is full of small narrow streets,” councillor Ben Coleman told the Standard.

The two-year trial is part of Hammersmith and Fulham council’s Clean Air Neighbourhood scheme, and has seen 8,000 fewer cars a day on local streets.

It is intended to encourage drivers to stick to main thoroughfares.

Residents to the west of Wandsworth Bridge Road saw the success of the trial and have asked for it to be rolled out in their area too.

The council has agreed to expand the trial to the whole of South Fulham, running for between six and 18 months.

If successful and backed by residents, the trial could become permanent in the borough.

It’s one way the local authority hopes to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels that have crept back to unhealthy levels after a dip in 2020 — with cars being the biggest cause.

Hammersmith and Fulham council’s latest air quality report shows that local levels of nitrogen dioxide exceeded the annual average national limits of 40 µg/m3 and World Health Organisation Air Quality Standards of 10 µg/m3 last year.

The council’s deputy leader Mr Coleman said the traffic control scheme has the dual effect of improving residents’ health and reducing congestion on small residential streets.

He said locals won’t be fined because their vehicle number plates will be registered with the council. They will also be able to give as many visitors as they want free access through RingGo or a council hotline.

He also stressed that the majority of drivers are not fined, and the scheme is first and foremost about education.

“This is not about making money, it’s about cleaning our air. We want to educate people,” he said.

Assistant parking director John Galsworthy said the trial — and traffic movement changes following 2020 — has helped lower residents’ exposure to nitrogen dioxide levels.

Following the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was “more traffic over a bigger period of time”.

This happened as home deliveries increased and the traditional “rush-hour” commuter traffic reduced with more people working from home.

Mr Galsworthy said “residential streets, post-pandemic, have been more full than they were prior” as congestion on major roads forced cars to take other shortcuts.

He said low levels of nitrogen dioxide “all the time” can be more dangerous than the peaks.

But with the trial in place, nearly 25 per cent of traffic “evaporated”, Mr Galsworthy said.

He added that 50 per cent of “opportunistic” traffic disappeared.

The success of the trial has prompted other councils in London and Manchester to enquire about it.

“We have put measures in place where we could introduce it to the rest of the borough,” said Mr Coleman.

“All over London we have low traffic neighbourhoods but you block the road with a physical obstruction. We’re not doing that. We’re using a virtual control through the cameras.

“We know that we have to do something about toxic air and we’re determined to do that.”

As well as installing the cameras, Hammersmith and Fulham council is planting trees, introducing sustainable drainage schemes and has improved infrastructure for walking and cycling.