Tackling air quality issues in England

The Curb newsletter (4th edition)

July 2, 2021

Tell us more about the project in Oxfordshire!

NEVFMA (Network Emissions / Vehicle Flow Management Adjustment) was a project sponsored by Highways England and was funded via an innovation competition to research and look at tools that could be deployed to help tackle air quality issues as a result of traffic on the strategic road network of England.

 

Aimsun led a consortium of Siemens Mobility, Earthsense and Oxford County Council to deploy a version of Aimsun Live with an integrated Air Quality Dispersion Model from Earthsense. The project had the mandate to tackle and mitigate air quality issues, especially in areas which exceed legal air quality limits. We were awarded the project in 2019 and went live (on time) in June 2020.

 

Did COVID-19 upset the data collection?

Yes, COVID decimated traffic volumes and flows during the project. As we went live in June 2020, traffic was down by a considerable volume, and with the warm UK weather at the time, air quality was not such a great issue. Fast forward to our key evaluation time of October / November 2020, and traffic was bouncing back, before further restrictions were applied to slow the onset of the Winter COVID wave.

COVID-19: 7-day rolling average

You can see in the graphic that the variation of traffic volumes and flow can be dramatic and no one day is the same as the next, highlighting the need for real-time simulation and prediction from Aimsun Live in today’s traffic management toolkit.


Despite the dip in traffic, the system provided some very interesting results. In the evaluated period the key target area of the road network exceeded the legal limits 57% of the days. On 65% of those days, our solution evaluated traffic management response plans that would be more beneficial than the base traffic management situation and provide superior air quality management. Lastly these beneficial traffic management plans had a positive modelled benefit of some 5% of cases on average – even up to 20% in some cases.

Result of invoking Traffic Management Plans

What does the future hold for this solution?
 
The system deployed will continue to operate for some time, monitoring, evaluating, and reporting, to build up an evidence base of the benefits and possibilities. As with all new technology, it raises further questions and debate, and we hope the analysis and evolution helps answer these. NEVFMA is being demonstrated regularly to customers around the UK and around the world, provoking many to think how it can help them in solving their air quality issues, alongside other technology deployments such as Clean Air Zones, Electric Charging Infrastructure and existing traffic management systems. The Aimsun Live system is creating value from its digitization and facilitation and showing authorities how they could use their existing data sets and assets more efficiently and effectively.

 

The system is key to future air quality management in that it allows us to, first, visualize the problems that traffic causes in relation to air quality and then, secondly highlight the mitigation actions that can be taken. 

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