PLANS for a second bridge across the River Thames in Abingdon have been hailed as a possible way to cut the town centre’s pollution levels.

The Vale of White Horse District Council revealed its action plan to tackle high levels of nitrogen dioxide in High Street, Stert Street, Stratton Way, The Vineyard, Bridge Street and part of Ock Street.

It suggested the second bridge and a southern relief road could be two long term solutions to draw traffic away from the town centre and ease congestion on the town’s only bridge.

Council officers also said a southern bypass, taking traffic away from the centre, could be implemented in the next seven years – but both schemes would need Government funding because of the huge cost.

Other possibilities include turning the A34 Lodge Hill interchange into a full four-way junction and widening the Drayton Road bridge to allow two lanes for inbound traffic.

The Vale’s senior environmental officer, Tim Williams, said: “At the moment any traffic using the bridge has to go through the town centre and that can only be alleviated by a second bridge.

“A second bridge would mean traffic would not have to go through the town centre. A southern relief road would link up to the bridge, which would also cut traffic going through the town centre.

“Turning the Lodge Hill interchange into a full four-way junction would mean vehicles could get on the A34 and go south instead of coming through the town centre.”

In January, the district council’s draft plan – made up of ideas suggested by business and community representatives – was made public.

A suggestion to remove all road signs — similar to a scheme introduced in London’s Kensington High Street to improve pedestrian safety — has been dropped.

The report said it could exacerbate air pollution, with more stop- start traffic.

Congestion charging was also shelved due to its unpopularity with residents and businesses. It was also thought that the volume of traffic would make it impossible to implement.

The report says the town is not large enough for a park-and-ride, and a rail or tram link to Oxford would prove too expensive.

Mr Williams said: “The park- and-ride scheme is not justifiable because of the size of Abingdon and the number of people coming into it. We looked into a rail or tram link to Oxford but there are good bus links.”

According to European regulations, there should be a maximum of 40 milligrammes of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre and Abingdon town centre’s annual average is in the mid 40s.

The town centre was first declared an air quality management area (AQMA) in 2006, when the average was 50mg.

The Abingdon Integrated Traffic Strategy (Abits) was introduced the same year with hopes that it would improve the problem and ease congestion in the town.