Raith pollution is off the scale

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A NOTORIOUS motorway bottleneck in Lanarkshire has emerged as Scotland’s second worst pollution blackspot.

Raith Interchange is still falling way below the European air pollution target years after it should have been reached.

This week environmental campaigners slammed local and national government for not doing enough to improve it.

Raith Interchange is at junction 5 of the M74, the exit for Bellshill and Bothwell. The roundabout there also handles traffic crossing the motorway on the Bellshill Bypass and East Kilbride Expressway.

Lengthy queues of traffic joing and leaving the motorway - and on the roundabout - are common.

The authorities have been criticised over the years for delays to junction improvements and for the poor pedestrian access from Bothwell to Strathclyde Park.

Improvements are in the pipeline as part of a £415 million plan to upgrade the M74, M73 and M8.

These will include a tunnel at Raith Interchange to keep vehicles travelling between Bellshill and East Kilbride away from the motorway junction, and a cyclepath and walkway.

Work is due to start late this year and run until 2017.

Friends of the Earth Scotland has revealed the nitrogen dioxide level at Raith Interchange is 50 per cent above the European standard.

That makes it the second worst spot in Scotland, with only an area of Glasgow more polluted.

THREAT

The organisation’s Dr Richard Dixon said: “Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to people’s health, with fumes from cars, lorries and buses killing off at least 10 times the number who die in road crashes every day.

“Pollution targets were set in the late 1990s and supposed to be met in 2005, yet we still have air pollution at dangerous levels.

“Both the Scottish Government and local authorities have failed to take this issue seriously for years.

“Between them they need to do more than make promises they don’t deliver. We need action on traffic levels and the types of vehicles allowed on our most polluted streets.”

Government agency Transport Scotland insisted its planned junction improvements will make a difference.

A spokesman said: “More free-flowing traffic will reduce the emissions associated with queueing traffic, helping tackle climate change and improving air quality and health.”

However, Dr Dixon insisted the pollution problem will be tackled only by cutting traffic and switching to more environmentally-friendly vehicles.

He said the absence of homes in close proximity to Raith means there is less of a pollution threat to residents, but said drivers, cyclists and pedestrians who use Raith are all at risk.