Over recent weeks a large number of PHTM readers have expressed concern about the vagaries surrounding the impending Clean Air Zones to be introduced in various local authorities in England and Wales.
Part of the reason for this is the nature, and number, of rumours floating about and being circulated as to what is purportedly going to happen, especially that there might be the possibility of a sweeping government edict resulting in all local authorities across the entire country charging all licensed taxis and private hire vehicles for entry into Clean Air Zones – in a very short period of time.
That is patently not the case.
For this reason we have liaised with the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit, a team comprising members of the Department for Transport and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to understand the true picture as of January 2019. Obviously, if there are any changes we will update readers accordingly.
This Clean Air movement is hardly a new development; the original Clean Air Act was issued by the government of the day in 1956 to enforce smog control regulations following the change to smokeless fuels in the home. The Act was updated in 1993 to incorporate further restrictions on fume-producing sources such as low chimneys, and to prohibit the production of “dark smoke” from those sources. Of 68 regulations in that Act at the time, only one of those made any mention of the possible effects of motor fuel exhaust as a source of pollution.
Concerns over our ecology and environment worldwide – particularly with regard to pollution from vehicles - developed swiftly during the early 21st century, resulting in another revision to the Clean Air Act in 2010, with provisos for local authorities with the highest levels of pollutants to develop plans to reduce harmful emissions, and to have submitted those plans to central government by 2011.
The fact of the matter is that not a lot happened at that time; as a consequence the EU put its foot down and declared that if those authorities did not acquiesce to that request and take positive action, the government would be heavily fined (we’re talking millions of pounds here, per authority).
Further studies were undertaken in the intervening years, and although it has been proven that air quality in the UK has actually improved overall since 2010, there is one form of air pollution that exceeds legal limits: Nitrogen Dioxide. The evidence showed that road transport is responsible for some 80% of NOx concentrations at the roadside.
In 2017, the government published the UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations, followed by a supplement in 2018. The Plan and the supplement identified 61 local authorities in England showing exceedances and they have been required to develop and then implement plans to bring roadside concentrations of nitrogen dioxide within legal limits in the shortest possible time. Many of these studies have concluded and at this stage there are 33 local authorities that are developing plans.
Present-day plans for reduction of pollutants and possible introduction of Clean Air Zones are outlined within this article. The following background information was supplied to us by the Joint Air Quality Unit literally days before our press deadline, so you can be assured that it is both current and accurate:
“The UK Government is providing financial and expert support to 61 local authorities in England to develop bespoke, innovative plans tailored to the nature of the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) problem in their own local area, to bring down levels of this pollutant as quickly as possible. The Welsh Government is taking the same approach with two local authorities in Wales.
“Clean Air Zones will have a key role to play in delivery of a number of these local plans. Clean Air Zone proposals are not required to include a charging zone. However, where there are no other viable options to reduce air pollution to legally permissible levels in the shortest possible time, some of those 61 local authorities may decide to introduce zones where vehicle owners are required to pay a charge to enter, or move within, a zone if they are driving a vehicle that does not meet the particular emission standard for their vehicle type in that zone.
“Several local authorities in England, for instance, Leeds, Birmingham, Bath and NE Somerset, have already consulted on proposals for charging Clean Air Zones as part of their preferred option to ensure compliance with NO2 limits in the shortest possible time. In some cases, local authorities will implement Clean Air Zones that apply charges to taxis and PHVs but not to private cars. Local authorities may also wish to set a different level of charge for taxis and PHVs and private cars. In these circumstances, local authorities will need to be able to distinguish private cars from taxis and PHVs. The first of these is expected to start operating at the beginning of 2020.
“Licensing authorities in England and Wales already hold the registration details of vehicles which they have licensed as either a taxi or PHV. However, they do not have access to similar information for vehicles licensed by other licensing authorities. As a result, it may not be possible for a local authority who wishes to introduce a charging Clean Air Zone to identify a taxi or PHV that has been licensed by another authority. This would undermine the authorities’ ability to effectively operate its Clean Air Zone where charging of taxis and PHVs has been determined to be necessary for air quality purposes.
“The government has therefore committed to the creation of a centralised database to enable the identification of all taxis and PHVs operating in England and Wales, regardless of where they have been licensed. As a first step to enable this, draft Regulations were laid in Parliament on 8th January 2019 which will require all licensing authorities in England and Wales to provide to a central portal on a minimum weekly basis, certain information about the taxis and PHVs that they have licensed. Subject to parliamentary debate it is envisaged that the Regulations will come into force on 1 April or shortly afterwards.
“I hope that this clarifies the situation.
“All licensing authorities will need to provide certain information on the taxis and PHVs that they have licensed, but only a certain number of local authorities will use this information for Clean Air Zone charging purposes.”
• Air quality has improved significantly over recent decades and will continue to improve. For instance, emissions of toxic nitrogen oxides have fallen by almost 27% between 2010 and 2016 and are also at their lowest level since records began.
• The government argues that more needs to be done because there is increasing evidence of the impacts that poor air quality has on public health, on the economy, and on the environment. The Government recently published the
Road to Zero Strategy and the Clean Air Strategy which they say both aim to improve public health while supporting the environment and the economy.
• The government says that it has set aside £3.5 billion for improvements to air quality and cleaner transport.
• A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is defined as an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality.
• Clean Air Zones bring together local measures to deliver immediate action to improve air quality and health with support for towns and cities to grow while delivering sustained reductions in pollution and a transition to a low emission economy. Where there are the most persistent pollution problems, this is supported by restrictions to encourage only the cleanest vehicles to operate in the city.
• It can be confined to a single road or a part of a city.
• Clean Air Zones fall into two categories:
• Non-charging Clean Air Zones – These are defined geographic areas used as a focus for action to improve air quality. This action can take a range of forms including, traffic management and fleet management options but does not include the use of charge based access restrictions.
• Charging Clean Air Zones – These are zones where, in addition to the above, vehicle owners are required to pay a charge to enter, or move within, a zone if they are driving a vehicle that does not meet the particular standard for their vehicle type in that zone.
Local authorities that choose to implement a charging Clean Air Zone can decide what class of Clean Air Zone to apply.
1. Class A - Buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs)
2. Class B - Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)
3. Class C - Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs and light goods vehicles (LGVs)
4. Class D - Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs LGVs and cars
It is only the dirtier and older vehicles that would be affected by Clean Air Zone charges in the appropriate class. The Clean Air Zone Framework outlines the minimum standards for Clean Air Zones are Euro 6 diesel (for cars these should be newer than September 2015) and Euro 4 petrol (for cars these should be newer than January 2006). Ultra-low emission vehicles would not be charged.
• Initially, five cities were directed by the Government to conduct a feasibility study to assess the need for a Clean Air Zone, these are Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton.
• In 2017, the Government directed an additional 23 local authorities, which had illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, to carry out a feasibility study to determine whether or not a Clean Air Zone is required. Some of the local authorities worked together on a joint study.
• In 2018 an additional eight local authorities were directed to conduct a feasibility study. These are: Bolsover; Bradford; Broxbourne; Leicester; Liverpool; Newcastle-u-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent; and Portsmouth.
All 36 local authorities that have been asked to consider whether a charging Clean Air Zone would improve their air quality are shown on the map (see below). Government prefers other measures if they are effective and expects that several may not require a charging Clean Air Zone. Any local authority that is considering a charging Clean Air Zone is required to conduct a consultation.
• Local authorities will conduct a feasibility study to assess how reductions in nitrogen dioxide will be achieved.
• The plans will be submitted to the Government for approval. This is based on an assessment of effectiveness, fairness, value for money and delivery of improvements to air quality in the shortest time possible.
• Once approved, the local authority will be granted funding to deliver measures and, where applicable to set up a charging clean air zone.
• Local authorities will set the charge level at a rate which will ensure compliance with the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide, in the shortest possible time.
• After recovering the costs of the scheme, any additional revenue will be ploughed back into supporting the local transport plan.
PHTM has been in contact with numerous sources and built a picture of current thinking. This has not been verified by the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) and is not a representation of the 36 English local authorities which are developing plans as directed by the government in the 2017 UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations, and the following supplement in 2018. This has not been verified by the Welsh Government and is not a representation of requirements on Welsh local authorities. Note that local authorities that are not part of the 36 that have been requested to take action have the powers to introduce charging Clean Air Zones.
• CAZ expected by end 2019
• Birmingham is proposing a Class D CAZ
• Charge: £6 to £12.50 for non-compliant cars; £50 to £100 for lorries and buses
• Anyone living in the zone to be exempt for at least a year plus key workers, low-income employees with jobs in the zone and hospital patients and visitors
• CAZ should cover all roads within the A4540 Middleway ring road - policed with ANPR cameras
• Council has asked for £36m in Government funding to set this up
• Birmingham also to limit taxi licences to those with ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) and add 200 extra charge points
• Council also looking at setting up a leasing scheme for taxi drivers to switch to ULEV or convert their existing vehicle to LPG.
• CAZ a possibility
• It has published a consultation with three options, two of which include charging cars that don’t meet minimum emission standards
• Preferred option is to introduce a traffic management scheme to reduce flow through Stafford Street to help address air quality issues in that location. Also set up a scrappage scheme, to offer drivers of older cars one of three incentives to scrap them: a large discount towards an electric car; a smaller amount of money towards a modern petrol or diesel car; or credits towards public transport and car sharing club
• A second option would create a CAZ within the inner ring road. Cars, vans, lorries and buses would be charged. There would also be traffic restrictions on Stafford Street, as well as a scrappage scheme.
• A huge CAZ within the city's outer ring road is part of a third option. A scrappage scheme covering residents of the zone, as well as commuters to Derby would also be introduced
• CAZ planned to start 6 January 2020
• Leeds is proposing a Class B CAZ
• Low emission charge £12.50 per day for affected taxis; £50 for lorries, coaches and buses
• CAZ covers a huge area, including the city centre, and a large segment to the north, up to the outer ring road. It will stretch down to part of the M621 in the south-west
• Taxi/PHV drivers will have to have a petrol-hybrid or fully electric cab to avoid charges of £12.50 per day or £50 per week
• It will be policed with ANPR cameras
• The council will apply to the government for a £27m grant, largely to help taxi drivers upgrade to cleaner vehicles
• ULEZ begins 8 April 2019 affecting ALL vehicles entering central London which don’t meet minimum emission standards
• Same area as Congestion Charging Zone but it will become enormous in 2021, when it is due to expand out to the North and South Circular roads
• Low emission charge £12.50 per day for affected cars; £100 for lorries
• ULEZ will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
• London is also planning smaller zero emission zones in the capital from 2020, where all vehicles will be charged unless they are plug-in hybrid, electric or hydrogen vehicles that can run without any exhaust emissions.
• CAZ not expected as plans have been cancelled
• Council believes it can be compliant with air quality regulations by 2020 by retrofitting 171 NCT buses with clean exhaust technology
• Also requiring every taxi and PHV to be low emission and
• Council replacing its own heavy vehicles (e.g. bin lorries) with electric or LEVs
• The Government will make £1m available to provide licensing discounts for drivers who switch to LEVs
• Install a taxi rank with charging points, fund home chargers for taxi drivers and expand its “try before you buy” scheme
• CAZ proposed for 2020
• Council to submit CAZ plans, including proposed boundaries, by end January 2019
• Council launched a consultation into its plans last year, which included a £100-per-day charge for lorries, buses and coaches but these faced stiff opposition from local businesses
• New proposals include strict emissions standards for buses and new taxi licences that require low emission vehicles
• CAZ opposed
• Basildon and Rochford Councils have been told by Government to consider a CAZ for two areas of illegal pollution by 2020
• The councils are fighting the order imposing restrictions on the A127
• Council is proposing a new cycle route and £470,000 for rapid charging points as an alternative to a CAZ
• CAZ expected by end of 2020
• Class D charging CAZ proposed
• Low emission charge £9 for non-compliant cars; £100 for lorries and buses
• Consulting over CAZ covering city centre including roads around Bath Spa station and the Royal Crescent incorporating the Botanical Gardens
• Charge: £9 for non-compliant cars; £100 for lorries and buses
• Residents of the zone won't be offered any discounts. Vehicles that remain parked won’t have to pay the daily charge.
• Concessions include drivers of diesel hybrids and diesel taxis, won’t be charged until January 2022
• CAZ under consideration
• Bristol City Council has five potential options for a CAZ
• Options include small/medium-sized Class C or Class D charging CAZ in city centre
• It will consult on the options this year and is calling on Government to help fund and introduce a national “vehicle renewal scheme” to help meet pollution targets
• CAZ examined for 2020
• Cambridge has recently published its Air Quality Action Plan, including a feasibility study into a CAZs covering central Cambridge.
• The study will consider the effect of including private cars in the charging scheme, as well as buses, taxis and lorries.
• One possibility involves “permitting access to LEVs only”, alongside reducing the amount of parking available in the city
• CAZ not expected
• Canterbury City Council is planning to reduce emissions by adopting strict anti-idling enforcement at coach parks, parking bays, taxi ranks and level crossings
• Council will also explore the use of its fee structure to encourage taxi drivers and bus companies to use LEVs
• CAZ not expected
• Exeter City Council also does not intend to restrict or limit the age and type of vehicles entering certain areas of the city
• Its Air Quality Action Plan aims to discourage using private car and increase use of public transport, cycling and walking
• CAZ expected by 2026 or sooner
• Implement a CAZ for buses only by 2020
• CAZ expected: date TBC
• Liverpool City Council is currently assessing viability of a chargeable CAZ but has not outlined any formal details.
• Liverpool’s Mayor has suggested a blanket ban on diesel vehicles entering the city
• The council has proposed enforcing anti-idling fixed penalty notices using local authority officers
• The council city centre fleet will be diesel free from 2020, followed by council vehicles used across the wider city from 2024
• CAZ considered for 2020
• Vehicles affected are non-compliant lorries, buses, vans and taxis, plus cars that aren't registered in Manchester and don't meet emissions standards
• Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester's elected Mayor, has said that older cars from outside Manchester would be charged to enter the city centre. Private cars registered in Manchester would not be subject to charges
• Another option being explored by Manchester is differential parking charging, where vehicles could be charged based on their emissions. All is expected to be revealed soon
• Zero emissions zone (ZEZ) planned for 2020 - Oxford has had a low emission zone in place since 2014 but this has so far only affected buses
• Oxford City Council is planning to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles from the city centre other than electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles. Any other vehicle planning to visit the city centre will have to use Oxford’s park and ride
• Taxis, vans, buses and private cars will be targeted initially, followed by lorries in 2035, when the technology for electric lorries is anticipated to be commonplace
• From 2020, the proposed zone will cover the centre of Oxford, around Cornmarket Street, which is already pedestrianised for much of the day. It would then expand further south in 2025, before encompassing the majority of the city centre in 2030
• Clean air zone under consideration
• Vehicles affected unknown
• Scope of the zone -officials are examining a wide area
• CAZ planned for 2020 / 2021
• No plans to charge private cars, but most polluting buses, taxis, lorries and vans will be charged for entering a zone on the inner ring road surrounding the city centre
• Drivers of older lorries, buses and coaches will have to pay £50 per day
• Sheffield Council is seeking £40m in Government funding to support businesses and taxis to help upgrade their vehicles
• Council consultation to be launched on the plans in early 2019
• Aim to have the zone in place to meet air quality targets by January 2021
• Council considering introducing anti-idling zones; retrofitting buses with cleaner engine technology; and small-scale scrappage scheme for low-income drivers
• Clean air zone proposal is being examined
• Vehicles affected: taxis, buses, coaches, lorries and vans
• Slough council has ruled out CAZ charges for cars, but is considering charges for other types of vehicles
• CAZ under consideration
• St Albans City & District Council is considering plans to set up CAZs in areas with poor air quality or vulnerable people are concentrated
• The scheme will concentrate on fining drivers for excessive idling
• CAZ under consideration
• Warrington Borough Council will examine benefits and drawbacks of a CAZ
• It has already adopted its five-year plan to tackle pollution, including increasing use of EVs and creating cycling and walking links
• LEZ under consideration
• Wokingham Borough Council has published its Air Quality Action Plan, which highlights two locations where emissions levels need to be reduced - Wokingham town centre and Twyford Crossroads
• CAZ proposed for 2020
• York City Council plans to implement a CAZ for buses which don't meet Euro 6 standards, targeting an area within York’s inner ring road and city centre
• It will limit the frequency that buses can enter the zone, based on the emissions performance of the bus
• York is also looking to convert 17% of taxis to electric hybrids
• There will also be a new taxi licensing policy in place to specify minimum emissions standards
Note: Joint Air Quality Unit cannot verify Welsh Government actions
• The Welsh Government is seeking views on its CAZ proposals, which include charging the most polluting vehicles for entering certain parts of its cities
• The Welsh Government has said it will encourage local authorities to introduce CAZs, where evidence suggests they are needed to reduce harmful emissions
• Temporary speed limits (50mph) have also been introduced to reduce emissions at five locations
• Cardiff has the worst pollution in Wales. It has been told to investigate the possibility of a CAZ and is due to report back in 2019 with a proposal to improve air quality. It’s too early to tell whether vehicle charging will form part of this
• Alternatives to CAZ include speeding restrictions; increasing number of zero emission buses; improving taxi licensing policy to set minimum vehicle emission standards; accelerating Park & Ride programmes and improving uptake of LEVs by investing in Cardiff’s electrical charging infrastructure
• Caerphilly is looking to introduce a CAZ on the A472 at Hafodrynys Hill and a total ban on HGVs at peak times in the area
So there you have it: these are the 61 English authority areas that are likely to be the first which are affected by any degree of CAZ restrictions. Whether they all actually set out these zones, and/or charge for entry - to either licensed vehicles or private motors - into these zones is entirely up to the individual local authority.
Also, it has been raised as a serious consideration during the current negotiations amongst the ten Greater Manchester licensing authorities which are now to be amalgamated into one “city-region”, that Government has not directed Highways England, which has responsibility for motorways and trunk roads, to act to reduce NO2 with the same timescale and process. That is a serious consideration all right…
If any PHTM reader has any queries whatever about this Clean Air issue, do not hesitate to get in touch. We can put those queries through to JAQU and get you an answer. Also, you might be interested to know that this topic will be at the forefront of many a mind at this year’s PHTM Expo. We have invited a representative from JAQU to be our keynote speaker at the main Seminar on the first day, Wednesday 12 June 2019. More details will be available in the next couple of issues of PHTM.
As we’re known to say quite frequently: Watch this space – for the facts!