The ‘metro mayor’ of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, is proposing a region-wide clean air zone (CAZ) to tackle nitrogen oxides (NOx) pollution. It would stretch across more than 1,200 square kilometres to cover all ten of Greater Manchester’s local council areas – making it the largest such project outside London’s low emission zone.
The scheme will not, however, include motorways, which are managed separately by Highways England.
The CAZ will be subject to consultation prior to its formal submission to civil servants in Whitehall. If signed off, it will also extend to pre-Euro-6 vans and minibuses by 2023, which would likely be subject to £7.50 daily charges.
Local authorities are proposing a ‘clean freight fund’ of £59 million for HGVs, and a ‘clean bus fund’ of £29 million for buses and coaches, to help fleet operators upgrade to cleaner vehicles.
“If we receive the full government funding and drivers make the switch to cleaner vehicles, we estimate that the vast majority of vehicles would not need to pay a penalty if a CAZ Zone was introduced,” said Clean Air GM – a collaboration between the 10 local authorities, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Transport for Greater Manchester.
“We would not introduce a CAZ unless this funding was made available to help businesses upgrade to cleaner vehicles.”
But the Road Haulage Association (RHA) called the planned CAZ “punitive” and said it could put hauliers out of business.
Calling the plans “yet another attack on haulage”, chief executive Richard Burnett said that they also completely ignored the part the sector – which will have cut NOx emissions by 70 per cent in less than a decade by 2021 – is playing in improving air quality.
“The GMCA should be putting forward effective and well-thought-out plans to improve air quality instead of punishing hauliers with crippling charges that won’t achieve anything,” he rmarked.
“This is just another tax on the industry which would see many small businesses facing a battle to survive as they struggle to cope with the extra costs.”
He added that pricing out trucks could see a modal shift towards vans, which could lead to increased congestion and pollution in the region.
Malcolm Bingham, head of policy for northern England at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), added: “The logistics sector is fully committed to reducing vehicle emissions wherever possible and acknowledges the role the industry must play in improving the air quality of our cities. Yet it is essential that an air quality scheme for Greater Manchester is developed with the needs of businesses the serve the area in mind.
“A charging CAZ of this scale would cause operating costs for some small businesses to soar, unfairly penalising the hard-working companies and individuals that keep Greater Manchester’s economy thriving, while ignoring other contributors to emissions levels across the city.”
CAZs were not the only method available to drive air quality improvements, he pointed out.
“Nottingham City Council successfully presented its case to DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) that other solutions can deliver a better outcome in a quicker time frame, without damaging the local economy.
“The truth is CAZs bring no long-term air quality benefit, as all the vehicles operating in Manchester will reach this standard in a few years without it. Councils would be better placed to concentrate on traffic management and encourage the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles.
“If Manchester feels it must implement a CAZ, it should scale the CAZ back to mitigate the very worst economic damage by, for example, excluding key industrial areas in the short-term, like Leeds. FTA is calling upon Manchester to follow suit, and for the local councils to carefully evaluate whether a charging CAZ, covering such a large area, truly is the best option for them.
“FTA is pleased to see, however, that non-compliant vans will not be liable for the CAZ charge until 2023, in recognition of the limited availability of compliant vans currently on the market. This is some good news for van operators.”