Radical plan to cut city’s traffic pollution welcomed
A city’s experiment to launch a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) this week is a radical experiment which should be brought in nationwide if successful.
That’s the view of Midlands green energy expert Ron Fox on Birmingham’s move to cut air pollution and which could see all private cars banned from driving through the centre by 2031.
“I hope it works,” said Ron, of Noreus Ltd on the University of Keele Science and Innovation Park, “as Birmingham is one the UK’s places worst affected by air pollution which contributes to around 900 premature deaths a year there.”
From this Tuesday (June 1) drivers of high-polluting cars, taxis and vans will have to pay £8 each time to travel into the city centre, while for coaches, buses and Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) it’s £50.
Charges will apply only to pre-2016 diesels and petrol cars registered before 2006 which are driving inside the A4540 Middleway ring road, although the circular route itself is not included.
Number plate recognition cameras will record the details of every vehicle 24 hours a day, seven days a week and drivers will be asked to pay online or by a dedicated phone number.
Those who do not pay within six days will face a £120 fine, which will be reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days.
But there are exemptions, including those who live and work inside the zone, hospital visitors, drivers of emergency, recovery and military vehicles plus school buses and classic cars. For more details go to https://www.birmingham.gov.uk.
Research has shown that of the 200,000 vehicles which pass through the middle of Birmingham every day around 60 per cent of them do not comply with the required emission standards.
Also, pre-covid there were a total of 250,000 vehicle journeys of less than a mile made every day within the zone boundaries. Council officials hope the CAZ charges will encourage people to walk, cycle or use public transport instead.
“This scheme isn’t a congestion charge for all, but it penalises those owners of vehicles with high nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions and encourages them to modernise their cars and vans,” said Ron.
Already Birmingham City Council has secured £15m to help taxi drivers upgrade to newer and cleaner vehicles.
For those motorists worried whether they will have to pay the charge go to the Department of Transport online at https://www.gov.uk/clean-air-zones
Birmingham will become the first city outside London to impose charges on privately-owned cars to improve air quality with Oxford and Bristol planning similar measures later this year.
The Government had approved the scheme in March 2019, but because of the impact of the pandemic and technology problems the deadline was put back to this month with the Labour-run council facing a fine of up to £60m if it failed to meet it.
“I think everyone has a right to breathe clean air,” said Ron, “and with up to 36,000 people across the UK dying from conditions linked to poor air quality I hope that this CAZ charge will soon be the norm across all our towns and cities.”
But it’s not just the cities cutting down on pollution, people can do the same in their homes, said Ron. For more details, call him on 0845 474 6641.
Caption: Cleaning up their act – Birmingham plans to cut traffic pollution from this week with other cities set to follow.