Friday, 12 August 2022

'Fine bus and taxi drivers who leave engines running'

BUS and taxi drivers should be fined for leaving their vehicle engines running while stationary in Henley town centre, say councillors.

Members of the town council’s transport strategy group claim there has been a persistent problem with engines being left running while vehicles are parked in the the taxi rank in Hart Street and the bus stop in Bell Street.

They say drivers have been asked to turn off their engines and operators have been asked to educate their drivers but the issue remains.

The council wants police to enforce the law as part of a drive to improve air quality in the town centre, where the level of nitrogen dioxide in some streets is 50 per cent higher than Air Quality England’s target limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

Speaking at a group meeting on Monday, Councillor Ian Reissmann said it was an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988 to leave your vehicle’s engine idling.

He said: “Police community support officers and police officers can impose a fixed penalty fine. The police station is still open from time to time and you can use the non-emergency number to report the offence.”

David Dickie, a member of environmental group Henley in Transition, said he had no luck when he asked taxi and bus drivers to comply with the law.

He said: “I’ve been doing monitoring and found taxis and buses are leaving their engines running for quite some time. I have spoken to them and all they say is ‘go away’. I don’t know what to do next.”

Councillor Lorraine Hillier said: “We need to raise awareness that this is an offence. You see people parked with their engine running to keep warm but you dare not say anything because you are afraid of their reaction.”

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, chairman of the group, said it should be easy for police to enforce the law when it came to buses. He said: “Buses run on a timetable so we know when they are going to be outside Sainsbury’s. The police could see a bus was due at, say, 10.10am and then say to the driver that they left their engine running and give them a fine. They can just go and do it.”

Enforcement of the law could be part of a Kill your Engine campaign designed to encourage all drivers to switch off their engines when waiting in traffic.

Other ideas to improve air quality include two new designated walking and mobility “corridors” to the town centre with signage, two new cycleways, more electric car charging points and a car share club for people who live in the town centre.

Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, is working with the town council on the introduction of a 20mph zone for central Henley which could be expanded to cover the whole town.

This would be from the junction of Reading Road and Station Road to the roundabout at Northfield End and from Henley Bridge to Gravel Hill.

A section of Greys Road from the traffic lights at Bell Street to Deanfield Road would also be included. The council is also drawing up pros and cons of implementing a 7.5 tonne weight limit in the town centre.

Cllr Gawrysiak, Henley’s county councillor, said: “The costs will come from the county council fairly shortly.

“Then we would talk about how we can police it. It could be set up so a
13-tonne lorry delivering to Nettlebed could come across the bridge but not vehicles going to Reading or Oxford.

“A number plate recognition system would be one idea. The camera would know which lorries were allowed through. If one goes through that’s not in the database then we fine them.

“We are at a cusp with all of these. We have been talking about them for a year-and-a-half but now we need to move things forward. We need to work out the costs and the possibilities.”

Members of the group, which also includes councillors from Remenham and Harpsden, will report back on the plans in January.

Town councillors and members of Henley in Transition are also to meet consultants Ricardo to talk about monitoring levels of particulates.

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