Paris has banned classics during the working week. Will our cities now follow suit? CCW investigates.
From July you’ll be restricted from taking your classic into the French capital on weekdays. We ask whether UK cities will follow suit
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has announced a controversial ban on pre-1997 cars from Paris during the working week, starting on 1 July. The plan, aimed at reducing emissions and controlling air pollution, has attracted criticism from drivers of classics – despite the restriction only being in force from 8am-8pm.
Each car registered in Paris will be required to display a disc in the window, which will indicate its status regarding emissions, designed to make enforcement of the ban far easier for police and city officials – rather like a UK tax disc.
The scheme makes no distinction for historic vehicles, though France’s equivalent of the FBHVC, Fédération
Française des Véhicules d’Epoque, is campaigning to have this revised. At the time of writing its had secured exemption for Collection Grise Carte status – about 20% of French registered classics.
Sir Greg Knight, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Historic Vehicle Group, feels that France’s system will increase the gap between rich and poor, and that the UK is leading the way in city emission incentivisation.
‘The French are entitled to do what they like in their own country but I regard an outright ban on pre-1997 vehicles entering Paris on weekdays as “gesture politics” of the worst kind, which will hit the poor hardest,’ he says.
He adds that London’s proposed Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) makes an exception for cars made more than 40 years ago, and rather than banning more recent older cars, subjects a small charge.
‘I believe this is the correct way to proceed because it incentivises the owners of older everyday cars not to take to take to city roads during the rush hour but does not seek to punish them because they cannot afford to buy a new car,’ he adds.
If the initiative is a success it could be introduced in other French cities, and with a London emissions zone and proposals for Oxford and other cities in the UK, the scheme could have an impact here too.
Currently the London Emissions Zone controls high polluters such as vans and HGVs, though a proposed ULEZ to be enacted in 2020 will involve more stringent
‘This is gesture politics of the worst kind’ – Sir Greg Knight
emissions regulations, and will result in a charge for older vehicles.
The Department for Transport (DfT) – which is funding schemes in Nottingham, Bristol, Milton Keynes and London to encourage more people to use zero emissions vehicles – confirms more emissions zones are on the way. A DfT spokesman says: ‘Tackling air pollution is a Government priority, which is why we published air quality plans last December.
‘These plans clearly set out how we will tackle air pollution through a new programme of Clean Air Zones, which alongside national action and continued investment in cleaner technologies, will help improve air quality.
‘Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton will have Clean Air Zones by 2020.’
While London has already agreed to exempt 40-year+ classics in its Ultra Low Emissions Zone from 2020 onwards, Oxford is still considering whether classics should be allowed into its city centre.
The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs points out that while it acknowledges the benefits of city emissions zones it has so far successfully negotiated exemptions for UK classic owners. Communications director Geoff Lancaster says: ‘The argument is that mileages undertaken by Historic Vehicles are minimal and there’d potentially be a loss to the public’s enjoyment of observing our motoring heritage were they to be banned. Should any similar scheme be proposed in the UK we will continue to negotiate on behalf of the historic vehicle movement for exemptions, as we have successfully in the case of London.’
The Automobile Association says that while there is a precedent in Europe for cities banning certain cars altogether, the UK was unlikely to follow suit.
‘As we have seen with the Low Emissions Zone in London, the UK Government tends toward taxing high polluters rather than banning them,’ the AA spokesman says.
‘With so few older cars in the UK we would see a ban as a pithy measure that would achieve very little save alienating enthusiasts of older cars. To suggest what’s happening in Paris would happen in London or other UK cities is therefore a bit of a quantum leap at this stage.’