Drivers facing £7.50 a day ‘clean air’ bill
DRIVERS of highpolluting cars could be charged £7.50 a day to enter the city centre under a £20m scheme to meet new clean-air targets.
A document obtained by our sister paper the M.E.N. reveals transport bosses are considering plans to introduce ‘Clean Air Zones’ within Manchester and areas in Bolton and Bury.
They would target vehicles that infringe emission standards, including mostly diesel cars but also older models that run on petrol.
The zones would be aimed at tackling our air pollution levels, which are among the worst in the country and estimated to contribute to more than 1,000 premature deaths a year.
The four-page report outlines a draft proposal to meet the targets by placing 66 number plate recognition cameras across the region to form a ‘ ring of steel’ around the charging areas.
To be introduced as early as 2020, the measures would be subject to feasibility studies, signoff by local government and public consultation.
But the document, believed to be produced for Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), outlines three main areas in Greater Manchester where drivers of buses, HGVs and high-polluting cars would have to pay if the scheme went ahead. These are:
Several roads in the city centre, including parts of the inner relief road (Mancunian Way)
A large stretch of St Peter’s Way in Bolton
Main routes into Bury town centre from the south west of the town
It states all zones could include restrictions on buses, coaches, taxis, HGVs, LGVs and cars.
‘Recommended charges’ cite a daily tariff of £7.50 for cars, £20 for LGVs and £100 for HGVs. These would operate 24-hours-a-day. Measures to curb polluting vehicles are central to new government air quality guidelines published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
It’s part of a long-term ambition for nearly every car and van to produce zero emissions by 2050.
Currently in consultation, it states ‘local authorities will be given clear legal duties’ to develop Clean Air Zone plans.
A spokesman for TfGM said they were working closely with Defra on air quality policy in Greater Manchester. He said they had started to explore the feasibility of Clean Air Zones.
The work is critical, he said, because Defra’s report states local authorities have a responsibility to bring pollution levels within legal limits in the shortest time possible.
He added: “As such, this early-stage exploratory work, for which Defra provided funding, considers a wide range of possible options and scenarios and aims to assess a significant number of variables which need to be considered.
“Over the course of the coming weeks we will be reviewing Defra’s national proposals in line with our Greater Manchester Low Emission Strategy and Air Quality Action Plan, and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) will be responding to the consultation as appropriate.”
A spokesman for new mayor Andy Burnham said he had not seen or played a role in drawing up the local document. He said his manifesto had ruled out a congestion charge in Greater Manchester and that would not change, adding: “We do need to improve air quality in Greater Manchester, but we will not punish drivers of diesel cars who bought them in good faith.
“It is for the government to give diesel drivers help to switch to less polluting vehicles.”
Coun Chris Paul, chairman of an Air Quality task group, said Clean Air Zones would be ‘completely different’ to congestion charging. He added: “For me in Manchester the difficulty is in the practicality.
“In London it’s easy to implement because there is an underlying congestion charge. With this, the devil will be in the detail. People are sympathetic to the lives of children and vulnerable people being shortened by pollution.
“But they feel upset that they were encouraged to buy diesel cars and now find they aren’t as good as had been thought.”
Other measures outlined in the national plan include lowering speed limits and a diesel scrappage scheme.
Transport here accounts for 30pc of dangerous emissions, with 95pc of those coming from road vehicles.
Drivers of high-polluting cars could be hit by the charge