Drivers are being urged to switch off their vehicle’s engine when queuing in traffic in a bid to tackle pollution in Colchester.

Recent roadworks have resulted in long delays for motorists using main routes through the Town, including the A133, Ipswich and Harwich Roads, and Eastgates.

Idling engines can produce numerous toxins including sulphur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxide. These are known to contribute to asthma, heart disease and other life-limiting illnesses, according to Transport for London.

In some cases, vehicles have been seen waiting at the Eastgates level crossing for over 10 minutes with engines running.

The area around East Street is already one of the most polluted in Colchester with nitrogen dioxide levels reading over 60mg/m3, well over the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 40 mg/m3.

There have also been complaints from local residents who have asked for more to be done to combat pollution in the area.

The Colchester Herald contacted Essex County Council’s Highways department and asked them to consider placing signs in the areas asking drivers to switch off when stationary.

In a statement to the Herald, Essex County Council said:

“The aim of this major investment in Colchester’s roads is to improve traffic flows, which should help to significantly reduce traffic pollution on these busy routes.

“At worst then the current problems are temporary and we ask for everyone’s help in remaining patient and behaving considerately during inevitable delays, particularly at peak times.

“It is absolutely good sense to turn off your engine (if you’re not driving a vehicle with the increasingly common “eco-mode” or similar that automatically switches off when stationary and in neutral).

“We will consider urgently whether any signs asking drivers to switch off while waiting at the level crossing might be helpful.

“The lower Ipswich Road closure is so that we can get pipes and cables moved as quickly as possible to be able to reopen the road.”

However, environmental campaigners are asking for more to be done to make drivers aware of the damage that idling can cause.

Mark Goacher, Green Party candidate in Colchester, said:

“I completely agree that stationary vehicles with their engines running is a huge pollution problem.

“Nitrogen Dioxide emissions can increase by up to 50% when the traffic is stationary as opposed to moving.

“It is a huge problem in Brook St, however monitoring by Colchester Green Party with diffusion tubes in January of this year found that East Street was very polluted indeed. The legal limit for emissions is 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air. We found that East St was over 60.

“Therefore I completely agree that drivers waiting in stationary traffic for long periods of time should just switch off their engines.”

Rule 123 of The Highway Code looks at says that drivers must not leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.

Local authorities have the power to issue £20 fixed penalties for emission offences and stationary idling under The Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002.

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