Tuesday 27 July 2021

Birmingham and Bath plough ahead with clean air zones

Birmingham and Bath will introduce clean air zones (CAZs) next year, imposing high daily charges on all but Euro VI trucks and coaches.

The Road Haulage Association’s spokesman for the environment, Chris Ashley, criticised officials for “applying flawed and outdated thinking” to improve air quality, branding it “a missed opportunity… to build back better.”

He said: “There are better ways to achieve the clean air we all want. Hauliers, for example, have invested £1.9bn in clean lorries that has seen NOx pollution levels fall by around 60 per cent since 2013.

“We need officials both locally and nationally to snap out of this negative and reactive mindset of penalising vehicles that do not conform to highly restrictive bureaucratic criteria. It makes no sense to impose the same charge on a cleaner vehicle registered in 2015 than a dirtier one registered in 2000.

“Instead, we need clear standards that allow businesses to invest with confidence in the clean vehicles of the future that we all want. It is the consistent improvement of standards over time that has driven the large falls in pollution.”

Green recovery ambitions must be sustainable and supported by sensible policies that nurture economic growth, he added.

The Birmingham Clean Air Zone, encompassing the area within the city’s inner A4540 Middleway ring road, will come into force from June 2021, having been delayed for almost a year by software problems and Covid. Last April, central government suspended the introduction of all CAZs until no earlier than January 2021 because of the Covid crisis.

Birmingham City Council said: “Following meetings with [environment minister] Rebecca Pow MP… and [transport minister] Rachel Maclean MP… it has been confirmed that the government-mandated clean air zone for Birmingham is now scheduled to launch on 1 June 2021.”

Pre Euro-VI trucks, coaches and buses will be charged £50 a day to enter the zone, with non-compliant vans and cars charged £8 a day.

The Council has allocated £35 million funding to help businesses and residents comply with the CAZ limits and some local businesses can use exemptions. Details can be found on the brumbreathes.co.uk website.

Bath’s CAZ comes into force on 15 March next year, and will apply only to trucks, buses and coaches, although these vehicles make up only a tiny minority of Bath’s traffic. The zone takes in sections of the A4 and A36 which are key freight routes in the region, effectively turning them into toll booths for through-traffic not destined for Bath.

Pre Euro-VI diesel heavy-duty vehicles will be charged £100 a day, and light-goods vehicles £9 a day.

Grants of up to £20,000 are available to replace trucks, £30,000 for buses and coaches and £4500 for vans.

Full details of the Bath scheme can be found here.

Meanwhile, air quality in Leeds has improved to the extent that the city will no longer implement its proposed clean air zone.

A survey indicated that more than 90 per cent of buses and 80 per cent of trucks entering the proposed zone already met the Euro VI standard, and nearly half the city’s taxis and private hire cars were hybrid or electric. Air in the city now comfortably meets legal air quality standards thanks both to the presence of newer vehicles and changes to the road network.

Air quality has also improved significantly in Sheffield, Newcastle and Bristol, meaning that plans for CAZs in those cities are now also being reconsidered.

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