TfGM Anti-idling campaign at Leigh County Primary School

Mayor Andy Burnham has called on Greater Manchester’s drivers to help tackle deadly air pollution by turning their car engines off at the school gates.

Pupils and teachers at Leigh Central Primary School helped raise awareness of the health dangers of keeping the engine running when parked up, which is a particular problem on the school run.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has launched a campaign to tackle some of the common myths about leaving vehicle engines ticking over. A recent study revealed that switching off the engine when at a standstill could help reduce air pollution during peak travel hours by as much as 30%. The harmful fumes pumped out by many vehicles don’t just affect people outside the vehicle – drivers and their passengers are exposed as well.

Hundreds of roadside signs will be supported by a webpage, advertising and social media campaign to drive the ‘Engine off when you stop’ message home – including the misconception that stopping and starting the engine wastes fuel.

Andy Burnham said: “If we could see the invisible exhaust fumes we all breathe in every day, I’m sure we’d be horrified. Air pollution is an invisible menace and one which our young people are particularly vulnerable to. That’s why I’m calling on those of us who make the school run to switch their engines off when parked near the school gates.

“Leaving your engine ticking over is something we’re all guilty of. You might worry it’s a waste of fuel to restart the engine, or that your car heating will run cold if you switch off. In fact, leaving the engine running wastes more fuel – every two minutes ticking over is the fuel equivalent of driving a mile. Air pollution is one of the most important challenges currently facing us all. It makes financial sense, environmental sense and good health sense to switch off and I hope this campaign drives that important message home.”

Greater Manchester’s lead for environmental issues and climate change, Councillor Alex Ganotis, added: “This campaign will help shine a light on a persistent problem in Greater Manchester. Switching off engines at the school gates will not only help to protect our young people but lead to real improvements in air quality in our region.”

Andy visited Leigh Central Primary School earlier in the year on Greater Manchester’s first Clean Air Day (Thursday 15 June), when he watched a video Year Six pupils made to raise awareness of the environmental issue.

Richard Houghton, Deputy Headteacher at Leigh Central Primary School, said: “We were very fortunate to be part of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Day Campaign last June which gave us a platform to raise awareness of the air quality around school.

“It’s great that the latest campaign has been launched from Leigh Central and we hope that this important message can be spread further so that our children’s health, and the environment, can benefit from better air quality. If everyone can make one simple change and switch of their engines when stationary, this can collectively make a big difference!”

Vehicle exhausts can produce harmful gases – and tiny particles of soot and other matter – that pollute the air and are linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease and cancer. It is estimated that air pollution contributes to the premature deaths of up to 2,000 people in Greater Manchester each year. The region has been in breach of its legal limits for nitrogen dioxide, one of the most harmful pollutants, every year since 2011.

Air quality is improving as TfGM, local councils and other partners are busy implementing the policies and measures in Greater Manchester’s Low Emission Strategy and Air Quality Action Plan, but much more needs to be done.

Find out how to help clean up Greater Manchester’s air at



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