Councils in Bristol, Bath, Birmingham and Oxford have announced further details of restrictions to commercial vehicle access in their city centres, including in the latest set of local plans outlining emissions-reducing measures.
Bristol is planning to introduce a clean air zone (CAZ) from March 2021 which will charge non-Euro 6 commercial vehicles £100 per day to enter, and non-compliant vans £9 per day. This will run alongside a smaller exclusion zone from which diesel cars will be banned altogether between 7am and 3pm.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) policy advocate for environment and regulation, Chris Ashley, advocated a phased approach to CAZ charging prioritising the most polluting vehicles, which he said would be more likely to improve air quality, while also protecting the interests of local fleet operators.
“We all want to breathe clean air but hitting firms with punitive, pay-to-pollute charges isn’t a credible way to get us there,” he remarked.
“Given that it takes 12 large vans to carry the same load as a single 44-tonne lorry it stands to reason that pricing trucks out of Bristol could spark an increase in congestion and poor air quality.”
Meanwhile, Bath & North East Somerset Council has confirmed it also plans to levy a £100 daily charge for non-compliant HGVs and buses within its Bath CAZ, and a £9 daily fee for high-emission vans. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said the move, which would take effect in November if approved by government, was “the worst option for businesses in Bath and the regional economy”.
FTA regional policy manager Chris Yarsley said the scheme: “will exclude private cars and place the heavy financial burden of improving the city’s air quality on commercial vehicle operators.
“This decision is tantamount to a stealth tax on the hard-working local businesses and vehicle operators which already contribute so much to the public purse and help keep Bath functioning…
“A charging CAZ is not the most effective method to [improve air quality]; other solutions can deliver a better outcome in a quicker time frame, without damaging the local economy.
“In the view of FTA, Bath & North East Somerset Council would be better placed to concentrate on traffic management and encourage the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles.”
The RHA agreed it would “put firms at risk”, with chief executive Richard Burnett warning that hauliers typically make just £60 per truck in profits per week, so cannot be expected to thrive while absorbing £100 daily charges.
“We all want cleaner air and we will support practical plans which make it happen, but it cannot be at the expense of businesses priming the supply chain.
“We have put forward alternative solutions to improve air quality which embrace business realities but sadly these have fallen on deaf ears.”
Further north, Birmingham City Council’s draft transport plan, published in January, would impose restrictions on freight vehicles entering the city during the daytime – a proposal FTA has urged it to reconsider.
“While some goods can shift from being delivered in the day to the night-time, most are dependent on when the goods are ready or when customers are available to receive them – for example, fresh goods for sale that day and ‘just in time’ deliveries to meet urgent needs,” said Chris Yarsley, FTA policy manager for the Midlands.
He also voiced doubt about the council’s plans to encourage businesses to deploy e-cargo bikes for last-mile deliveries.
“The reality is that one medium-sized lorry – driven by one driver – can do the work of 100 e-cargo bikes. In the opinion of our members, this proposal does not provide the most effective way to reduce pollution and congestion in the city centre.”
The new proposals from Birmingham come in addition to previously announced CAZ plans for the area inside the A4540 Middleway ring road, to be implemented later this year – which will see non-Euro 6 HGVs, buses and coaches face £50 daily charges, and £8 charges for non-compliant LCVs.
Elsewhere, Oxford City and Oxfordshire County councils are considering introducing a ‘Red Zone’ in the city centre from December, within which all but zero-emissions vehicles would face £10 charges each day.The proposals, which have been published prior to an informal consultation, suggest charging could operate between 7am-7pm.
RHA’s Richard Burnett said: “Imposing a scheme where even the cleanest Euro 6 trucks will be hit with charges is absurd.
“The councils have offered no evidence to show how these measures will improve air quality so we can only conclude this is all about showcasing their green credentials instead of making the tough choices to tackle emissions.
“These are poorly conceived ideas which will leave Oxford’s communities footing the bill with price hikes in the high street if they go ahead.”