Bus chiefs hit out at ‘knee-jerk’ LEZ plans

In­dus­try lead­ers warn that timescale could cause fares hikes

The Sunday Post (Inverness) - - Transport - By An­drew Picken apicken@sun­day­post.com

SCOT­LAND’S first low emis­sion zone aimed at tack­ling air pol­lu­tion is set to be in­tro­duced with­out any enforcement mea­sures, trans­port chiefs have ad­mit­ted.

SNP min­is­ters will next month an­nounce plans to in­tro­duce a low emis­sion zone (LEZ) by the end of 2018, forc­ing own­ers of ve­hi­cles which don’t meet strict pol­lu­tion stan­dards for a part of a city cen­tre to pay tolls or fines.

How­ever, the “knee- jerk” timescale has been slammed by the bus in­dus­try, which has warned fares may have to rise in or­der to pay for the new greener buses or retrofitting needed.

Last night Trans­port Scot­land said the LEZ will be in place by 2018 but they are propos­ing a “lead-in time would con­tinue for a pe­riod af­ter the LEZ be­comes op­er­a­tional”.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment agency con­firmed the ap­proach was to al­low ve­hi­cle own­ers, “time to adopt or up­grade their ve­hi­cle, prior to the start of LEZ enforcement”.

Of­fi­cials re­fused to say how long it will be be­fore any charges will be levied af­ter the first LEZ, ex­pected to be in Glas­gow, is in­tro­duced.

Mark Ruskell MSP, the Scot­tish Greens’ cli­mate spokesman, said:“The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to LEZs is hap­haz­ard at best and makes a mock­ery of Scot­land’s com­mit­ment to tack­ling dan­ger­ous lev­els of pol­lu­tion.”

A spokes­woman for Friends of the Earth said: “The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment needs to clar­ify the ba­sics around the LEZ as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

“There are cru­cial de­tails miss­ing. We need to know where it will be, how it will be en­forced and which ve­hi­cles it’ll ap­ply to.”

The bus in­dus­try is wor­ried a tight turn­around for the LEZ will force some firms to with­draw ser­vices from the zone, and dis­place the air qual­ity prob­lem, or send costs soar­ing.

Ralph Roberts, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of McGill’s Buses, said: “In­tro­duc­ing a true LEZ at this ex­tremely short no­tice is go­ing to take a sig­nif­i­cant amount of pub­lic sub­sidy.

“Sub­sidy that wouldn’t have been re­quired if bus com­pa­nies had the time to plan.”

Asked if the poli­cies are suf­fi­ciently am­bi­tious, he said: “If th e y we re, we wouldn’t be sit­ting here won­der­ing if we’re go­ing to go bank­rupt as a re­sult of some last- minute, knee-jerk LEZ scheme.”

Mr Rober ts said that if no­to­ri­ous pol­lu­tion hot- spot Hope Street in Glas­gow was de­clared an LEZ then a bus retro­fit pro­gramme would cost around £9 mil­lion.

A spokesman for bus trade body the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Pas­sen­ger Trans­port warned of the po­ten­tial for “un­in­tended con­se­quences” from the plan.

He said that if an LEZ does not build in suf­fi­cient lead-in times or pro­vide sup­port for fleet im­prove­ments then he warned of “ser­vices be­ing with­drawn and fares in­creased as op­er­a­tors are forced to re­act to the costs of achiev­ing LEZ stan­dards at short no­tice.”

He added: “Any ap­proach that re­fuses to tackle pri­vate car use or fails to sup­port sus­tain­able trans­port modes will only re­sult in fail­ure.”

A Tr an s p o r t Scot­land spokesman said: “The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment is pre­par­ing the LEZ con­sul­ta­tion, to seek views on is­sues such as LEZ lead- in times and sun­set pe­ri­ods.

“The first LEZ in Scot­land will be put in place by 2018, with the con­sul­ta­tion propos­ing that a lead- in time would start once the LEZ de­sign is pub­lished, and would con­tinue for a pe­riod of time af­ter the LEZ be­comes op­er­a­tional.

“This ap­proach would pro­vide ve­hi­cle own­ers with time to adapt or up­grade their ve­hi­cle, prior to the sta r t of LEZ enforcement.”

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment want to in­tro­duce LEZs across the coun­try – how­ever the bus in­dus­try has slammed the timescale.

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