IT HAS been decades since we first started to see visions of the future featuring sleek and shiny vehicles whizzing around on cushions of air, hovering above monorails or gliding driverless through the sky.

At first these images were rooted in science fiction, notions of an idyllic age to come where technology would provide for everything and we could all lead lives of leisure in noise and pollution-free environments.

As some of those technological advances became a reality, there were those who insisted this utopia was just around the corner.

There are trains in Japan that run suspended on magnetic fields; there are cars for sale that run only on hydrogen or lithium ion batteries; computer programs that stop our vehicles crashing into the car in front.

And yet, here and now, scientists are telling us pollution is responsible for almost 40 per cent of all childhood asthma cases in the Bradford district – with road vehicle emissions alone linked to 24 per cent of them.

There are two major factors that impact traffic pollution: the type of emissions and the volume of traffic.

The latter is unlikely to reduce anytime soon. Why? Because our roads are overcrowded. There aren’t enough of them, they’re in the wrong places and in poor condition. The situation is not helped by misguided policies. Bus lanes, for instance, do not encourage people to get out of their vehicles, even when they are able to whizz people through traffic.

The motor car has given people a level of personal freedom that has changed the world and those who enjoy it will not give it up easily; they would sooner sit in a traffic jam than perch on the edge of a less-than-comfortable seat in a crowded vehicle, rubbing shoulders with strangers.

It has also made travel to work and school more flexible and accessible and, therefore, more complicated. Once upon a time, the only school option was the local one and the only jobs were in the factory next door. Some people, nowadays, commute for hours each way every day.

Add to that the fact that a huge number of the vehicles those buses pass are making commercial journeys, carrying goods that cannot be transported by bus or even trucks and trains.

So what bus lanes really do is increase pollution because they create bottlenecks where they merge with all-vehicle lanes and, thereby, cause other vehicles to sit idling and coughing out more fumes than they do on the move.

Until we build better roads and create networks where buses and trucks travel separately to small vehicles, it’s a problem that’s unlikely to go away.

So what else can we do? Well that takes us back to technology and alternatives to fossil fuels. There have been vast improvements and electric vehicles are getting better and, importantly, gaining longer ranges. The problem is they are still way too expensive.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), there was a record 47,000 plug-in cars registered last year, up 10,000 on 2016 – but that was just 1.9 per cent of the total UK market.

Even with Government grants of up to £4,500 per plug-in vehicle, the average price is still thousands of pounds higher than the petrol or diesel equivalent models.

It was recently reported that Porsche, the world’s most profitable car company, makes £14,000 profit on every car it sells. Ferrari makes £54,000.

Volume car makers are no slouches either: figures for 2017 showed that Toyota had a market capitalisation of about £120 billion; Volkswagen, despite the emissions scandal, was worth over £50 billion; General Motors, £36 billion; Honda, £35 billion; Ford, £31 billion. And so on.

There is little doubt manufacturers could afford to reduce the cost of electric cars to the consumer.

Until they do, the volume of sales is unlikely to grow to a level which will have any real impact on day-to-day traffic pollution. And those visions of the future will remain far out of most people’s reach.

* NOT many people, I suspect, will be surprised by a new study that shows Bradford has the worst pass rate in the country for the driving theory test.

The figure of 42.9 per cent is apparently 6.5 per cent below the national average, followed closely by the practical test pass rate which, at 40.8 per cent, is six per cent lower.

The real surprise is, given the appalling standards of driving around this city, that so many people actually passed.

Clearly, many of those with licences forgot it all the next day…

* GOOD luck to campaigners fighting to stop a so-called waste-to-energy burner being built next to the Aire Valley bypass, at Keighley, with their latest legal challenge.

Not deterred by their failure to have the planning permission thrown out by Judicial Review earlier this year, the Aire Valley Against Incineration (AVAI) members have discovered the plant would also be a potential threat to the National Trust’s Grade I listed East Riddlesden Hall, a stone’s throw away, and are seeking permission to appeal against it on those grounds. Time will tell if they’re successful but surely no-one in their right mind would place something like this in the bottom of a valley. There has to be a strong chance the Environment Agency will see through this ludicrous scheme and refuse the operating permit.