posted 3 weeks ago

Bristol First to Ban Diesel Cars, but Where Could Be Next?

You can also argue the fact that the current range of diesel engines are the cleanest we’ve ever seen. Euro 6 standards have even helped cut down on particulates

Last week saw the shock announcement that Bristol would be the first city in the UK to ban diesel cars outright. The plan is to ban privately owned diesel cars from a central zone in the daytime from 2021 after an outline plan was approved by the city council.  

While it can be argued that the ban makes no sense to penalise just diesel vehicles, you’ve got to remember that particulates from diesels have been found in brain tissue. These emissions are microscopic, totally invisible to the human eye and are that fine that they can penetrate cell walls with ease.

Petrol vehicles emit so few particulates that they can’t be currently be tested with the technology we have. You can also argue the fact that the current range of diesel engines are the cleanest we’ve ever seen. Euro 6 standards have even helped cut down on particulates. But it’s going to take years before all diesels on our roads are Euro 6 compliant, there are just far too many older vehicles out there.

To that end several other cities have murmured about banning diesel and charging motorists in recent years, so where could be next?

Leeds diesel taxing

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Leeds have currently ruled out banning diesel vehicles outright from the city centre. Instead, they have plans in place to start charging diesels that enter a new Clean Air Zone.

The system will work much like the London ULEZ, number plates will be read, and if your car, van or lorry doesn’t meet the set emissions regulations for the area you’ll have to pay a fee.

Currently, Leeds City Council has said that will be £50 a day for buses and heavy goods vehicles, while private hire vehicles and taxis will be charged just £12.50 each day.

Private car and light goods vehicle owners are currently omitted from any fees.

An £18 million grant has been secured from the government to help those affected switch to cleaner vehicles.

A date of January 2020 was set for the scheme to be put into action, but it’s been beset with delays due to bugs with the payment system and vehicle checking tools.

Birmingham Clean Air Charge

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For a while now, Birmingham has been planning to introduce its own clean air zone, the enforcement area is everything inside the ring road.

The charge will be for any vehicle that produces a high amount of NO2 or nitrogen dioxide. It mainly applies to diesels manufactured before 2015, and petrol cars prior to 2006. The same rules as the TFL ULEZ zone.

In terms of charges, the fee will be £8 per day for cars and other light vehicles, while HGV’s and busses will cost £50.

There are a few exemptions in place though, allowing you time to change vehicle. For example, if a commercial vehicle is registered to an address within the zone you won’t be charged for a year, the same applies to commercial vehicles with a finance agreement beyond 2020.

Private owners within the designated zone get two years before they will be charged, while commuters travelling into the zone also get a year without charges along with anyone visiting hospitals, GP’s, or care homes within the new clean air zone.

£15 million in funding has been granted by the council for taxi drivers to switch to newer, cleaner vehicles.

It’s believed that of the 200,000 vehicles that pass through the zone every day up to 60% don’t meet the emissions standards, and around 900 deaths a year in Birmingham can be attributed to poor air quality.

This new Clean Air Zone is meant to be implemented from January 2020.

Manchester Clean Air Plan

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Manchester is currently in the planning stages; their scheme is scheduled to be rolled out in two phases from 2021 to 2023.

They’ve already said that it wouldn’t include private vehicles, motorbikes or mopeds.

The plan would, however, affect light goods vehicles, that were manufactured before 2016, heavy goods vehicles made before 2013, taxis built prior to 2016 and buses and coaches that are older than 2013. Basically, anything that isn’t Euro 6 compliant will be taxable.

In terms of location, boundaries are still being decided and drawn up. They have said that it would cover local roads only, and exclude motorways and some other major routes that are already managed by Highways England.

One of the only things to be agreed so far are the fees. Vans and minibuses will be charged £7.50 a day from 2023, taxis and private hire vehicles will also cost £7.50 but will apply earlier from 2021. Buses, coaches and HGV’s will also face a £100 fee from 2021.

Funding is being planned by the local government to give grants to local businesses and taxi drivers to help them upgrade their older vehicles to make them compliant.

Newcastle Breathe Clean Air Plan

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Newcastle is yet another city that has decided to act in a bid to cut down pollution. Their scheme is in an embryonic state, with consultations on the final proposals only happening in October 2019.

The plan is going to be one of the following; either a Low Emission Zone in the city centre which will run alongside tolls on the Tyne, Swing and Redheugh bridges, or charging of a Clean Air Zone covering a larger area of Newcastle. This would reach into Gateshead and North Tyneside.

No date has been set, nor have any final proposals been put in place. It is, however, likely to be similar to the others, so a central Low Emission Zone would be like London ULEZ and charge for high polluting vehicles buses, taxis, HGV’s etc, whereas the Clean Air Zone would charge everything.

Liverpool Lets Clear The Air

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Currently, Liverpool has no plans in place to implement a congestion or ULEZ fee. Their ‘Lets Clear The Air’ scheme see’s numerous projects in place in a bid to cut the levels of pollution across the city without charging.

These include looking at ways to help commuters give up their cars, switching older diesel buses to more eco-friendly ones and changing the council fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles.

However, the Mayor hasn’t ruled out going down the congestion charge route, he’s also suggested that they may implement a ban for cars on certain days, or making public transport free at weekends.

This way of thinking seems to be a far more ground-up restructuring of how a city works, rather than just charging road users and then offsetting, or trying to clean whatever pollution is still caused.

It’s clear to see that charges for older cars will become more prevalent here in the UK’s major cities, and it’s not just diesel that’s being affected.