Mixed picture on Clean Air Zones

Mixed picture on Clean Air Zones

Posted by

Kevin Blackmore

March 2022

Drivers are being increasingly charged for entering inner-city areas under Clean Air Zone (CAZ) rules with one, Oxford, trialling the country’s first zero-emission pilot scheme. But the picture across the country is a mixed one with some schemes put on hold due to the threat of legal challenges.

In London, Transport for London has increased the Congestion Charge for vehicles entering the capital to £15 per day, adding further costs to businesses using cars and vans in the city. TfL has also removed the Auto Pay and Fleet Auto Pay discount.

However, from February 21, there will be no congestion charge after 6pm, and operating hours on weekends and bank holidays will also be reduced from 12pm to 6pm.  Congestion Zone operating hours are 07:00-18:00 on weekdays and 12:00-18:00 on weekends and Bank Holidays. More information is available on the TfL website.

TFL also operates an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and covers all areas within the North and South Circular Roads. The North Circular (A406) and South Circular (A205) roads are not in the zone.

Most vehicles need to meet the ULEZ emissions standards or pay a £12.50 daily charge to drive inside the zone.

First Zero Emission Zone

Meanwhile, the UK’s first zero-emission zone (ZEZ) will go live in central Oxford in a pilot scheme from February 28, with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and hybrids charged to enter the city.

However, zero-emission vehicles, such as electric cars, will be able to enter the pilot area free of charge.

The charge will vary from £2 to £10 per day depending on the emission levels of the vehicle. Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras are being installed to enforce rules within the zone.

The pilot will allow Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council to gain useful insights before introducing a larger ZEZ covering most of Oxford city centre next year, subject to further public consultation.

From 28 February, ZEZ charges for driving a polluting vehicle can be paid up to six days in

New Clean Air Zones

Amongst other towns and cities to introduce a CAZ, Portsmouth has launched a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) with daily charges for non-compliant vehicles.

Cars, vans and motorcycles are exempt, but buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles and heavy goods vehicles may have to pay up to £50 per day.

The CAZ covers the South West of Portsmouth and includes areas such as Gunwharf Quays and the University of Portsmouth North Zone.

For the Portsmouth CAZ ‘non-compliant’ vehicles are those that do not meet Euro 6 standards if diesel, or Euro 4 if petrol.

However, in Manchester, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the Government have announced that Manchester’s clean air zone (CAZ) has been put on hold to find a solution that is fairer to local businesses and residents.

A ‘Category C’ charging clean air zone (CAZ) covering Greater Manchester was due to be launched from May 30, and would operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Non-compliant coaches and HGVs were due to be charged £60 to enter the zone, and taxis and private hire vehicles £7.50, with a temporary exemption for Greater Manchester-licensed vehicles until May 31, 2023.

Charges were due to be based on vehicles meeting certain emission standards – Euro6/VI or better for diesel engines, and Euro4 or better for petrol.

However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, have announced that they will look again at how best to improve air quality in the region, with new plans expected to be unveiled by the middle of this year.

In Leeds, the City Council has decided to decision to axe a CAZ was due to concerns over a legal challenge to the scheme, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by a local newspaper.

The council originally announced that the CAZ was no longer required in October 2020, because air quality had significantly improved. It found that more than 90% of buses and 80% of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) driven in the city now use cleaner Euro VI engines and therefore wouldn’t be charged if a zone was introduced.

However, in emails between the council and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), there was concern about the legal authority of such a scheme, which was the ultimate reason behind the decision to scrap it.

A growing concern for fleet managers

Meanwhile, concern regarding the impact of the spread of CAZs is growing, with new research showing that almost two-thirds of employers (64%) are planning to extend their use of public transport or shared mobility to counter the growing number of clean air zones.

The findings from research commissioned by Europcar Mobility Group UK among 300 fleet managers across the country has been published in its latest whitepaper ‘Clearing the Air: Are Fleet Managers Ready for the Clean Air Revolution?’

Some 87% of fleet managers questioned said that their business will be impacted by the growing number of clean air zones, the whitepaper shows fleet managers face new challenges building a flexible fleet that not only meets the demands of the business itself but also meets the rules of CAZs and London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

The research found that one in five businesses were not aware of the rules for different zones, while just under 30% of businesses had not calculated the potential cost for their fleet to enter a CAZ.


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