A short part of the A36 trunk road that links the M4 to the south coast will fall into the proposed Bath clean air zone (CAZ) under recent proposals from the local authority, meaning all pre-Euro 6 trucks could be faced with a £100 charge if they use it.
The CAZ has been proposed by Bath & North East Somerset (BANES) Council in response to Government demands that nitrogen oxides are reduced in the city: the topography of the ‘Bath bowl’ makes it a collecting point for air pollution from all sources.
BANES plans to launch the zone late in 2020, and is currently consulting the public as part of the process.
While non-compliant vans, cars and taxis, which make up the bulk of the traffic, will be charged just £9 per day, non-compliant coaches, buses and trucks will have to pay £100.
It is understood that NOx levels are regularly exceeded on just one ‘problem’ road in Bath, and consultants commissioned by BANES estimate that the scheme as proposed will have an economic cost of £133 million to the Bath area.
Edward Bond, transport manager at long-established local haulier FG Bond & Son of nearby Marshfield, contends that the proposed CAZ will have a considerable impact upon businesses in the city. FG Bond specialises in delivering building materials, using a mixture of tippers and flat-bed crane lorries.
“We run building materials into London and have been progressively modernising our fleet for the last 10 years to keep up with the low emission zone requirements there. Over half our fleet of 16 is already Euro 6, and the rest, with one exception, is Euro 5, so we are better placed than most,” he said.
“However, there are plenty of tipper operators around here running older vehicles on local work, and it will hit them hard. I doubt if their clients have thought through the consequences of this: in practical terms builders may find they are hit with a £100 surcharge for every load delivered to or through Bath. It will have a massive effect on the pricing of building jobs.
“From a more long-distance perspective, we find that from a fuel point of view if we are heading towards Southampton it’s already more cost-effective to run along the motorway to Newbury then south on the A34 than it is to go through Bath. However, it will impact on runs to Salisbury.
“But Bath businesses do need to be concerned. Retail already seems to be in the decline in Bath, and if it is made more difficult for customers and deliveries to reach the city centre, then more and more people are going to go elsewhere: Swindon for example.”
Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, said: “The A36 is a significant route connecting Somerset with other parts of the country, but the £100 charges will see lorries displaced along local roads less suited to freight traffic.
“It’s clear that the local authority has no understanding about how the supply chain works. You can’t just make it prohibitive for lorries to use a major route and hope there won’t be consequences.”