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Vehicles on the road increasing in number, with over 4 million now keeping our urban streets and highways busy, and leaving more than 90kg of harmful emissions per capita

Eco-friendly transport plan

Vehicles on the road increasing in number, with over 4 million now keeping our urban streets and highways busy, and leaving more than 90kg of harmful emissions per capita

Transport of the future

Sergey Novoselov, who heads the Labour Safety and Ecology Department of the Belarusian Research Institute of Transport Transtekhnika (BelNIIT), notes falling emissions in recent years. Between 2010 and 2014, emissions fell by 6.5 percent (by 881,000 tonnes), despite the number of vehicles having risen. Engines are now more eco-friendly, comments Mr. Novoselov, with domestically produced buses operating to Euro-4 standards (emitting less sulphur). These are finding a market abroad too.

Nevertheless, there is some way to go before alternative fuels (such as natural gas and electricity) dominate. This year, the Minsk bus fleet has received ten gas-fuelled buses, with emissions half that of petrol vehicles. For every thousand litres of liquid oil motor fuel, between 180kg and 300kg of carbonic oxide is released, alongside 20kg-40kg of hydrocarbons, and 25kg-45kg of nitrogen oxide.

It may be some time before we notice a difference in air quality of course.

Electro-buses are still at pre-production stage, with some privately owned models operational, alongside several imported via an international project to assist Belarus’ transition to a green economy. Two Е433 Belkommunmash buses will appear in Minsk in late 2016, with eighteen more by late 2017.

Belarus’ first electro-bus presented at Belagro-2016 exhibition

Electro-transport is being hailed as the wave of the future, with Lithuania having received 30 million Euros from the EU to develop its electric fleet. Estonia already has a thousand electric cars and a hundred charging stations.

Once Belarus’ nuclear power station launches, there will be little difficulty in finding electrical capacity for recharging stations, notes Olga Prudnikova, who heads the Production and Technical Board at Belenergo. She tells us that a network of stations is planned, for use by private and public transport.

Some may be sceptical, but think how we felt on the introduction of mobile phones. Within five years, we may feel the same about electric transport. China, the EU, and the USA are already investing in this sphere, promoting sales via preferential purchase terms, free parking and free recharging. Such vehicles are also given their own lane, and are exempt from ecological tax. So far, the only move Belarus has made to make electro-transport attractive is the possibility of duty-free import.

There is also huge scope to develop urban cycling, with 1.5 million people reporting using a cycle. The number has grown since even five years ago but, as Mr. Novoselov admits, cycling is considered to be a pastime for teenagers, rather than a viable method of transport for working adults.

Major cities do need to take action to avoid pollution from transport emissions, and to take measures to limit noise (traffic noise comprises 60-80 percent of all urban noise at present). Innovative transport can improve the situation but other measures are possible, such as limiting the number of cars with access to central city locations, as in London (where a congestion charge deters unnecessary road usage).

The ‘modal shift’ involves transferring passenger traffic from personal to public transport, via motorists leaving their cars at designated parking sites. Moscow is already seeing success with this approach.

Are we ready to rely more on buses and trams? Mr. Novoselov says, “Buses use five times less energy per passenger than a personal car; trams and the metro use ten times less. Development of public and green transport (via bicycle infrastructure) will solve problems of cleanliness of air and traffic jams.” He argues that we don’t need new highways, we need alternative solutions.

By Veronika Artemieva
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