We have a simple choice ahead of us for a legally required clean air zone.
The hybrid plan tabled to Cabinet for a commercial vehicle charge and small area diesel ban or a large area charging zone, for all vehicles.
Let me explain. I will start at the beginning.
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Bristol is one of many cities that have been tasked with producing a clean air zone. The drive for this is obvious, that NO2 particulates in the air cause health concerns and illnesses and must be improved. NO2 is predominantly produced by motor vehicles and diesel vehicles are the biggest producer.
We have a moral, ecological and legal duty to clean up the air we breathe.
The legal duty is now captured under UK and European law. Bristol, like other cities has to become compliant on air quality levels in the shortest possible time – a very important phrase because that is the legal test we have to meet.
So, we asked transport and clean air experts to work together to calculate how Bristol would reach compliance to meet these tests. Unsurprisingly, the city central area has the worst air quality and so to bring down NO2 to legal levels, it is in that area where we need the clean air zone.
The experts calculated, and those calculations have been agreed by government, that the route to reach compliance in the quickest possible way is the proposal, tabled to cabinet as an outline case.
This is a CAZ C zone where commercial vehicles, buses and taxis that are not compliant to legal emissions (DIESEL Euro 6 or PETROL Euro 4, depending on the vehicle), would be charged to enter. The theory here is to encourage a change of behaviour and indeed we have been working with First Bus and our taxi drivers to have legally complaint vehicle emissions. This zone would have no impact on private car drivers and commercial drivers who have paid the charge will be free to enter the diesel ban area.
Added to this zone, is a small area diesel ban in the most central area. This will be in place 7am-3pm each day. This will ONLY apply to privately owned diesel cars. Together these are the hybrid option that, when combined, meets the legal requirement.
The only other option that would reach compliance in a similar timetable is a larger area charging zone for all vehicles, called a CAZ D.
Charging private drivers to come into the city gets us to compliance later and so doesn’t meet the legal tests and also, significantly, is proven to disproportionately impact on the lowest income families.
The hybrid plan, tabled to cabinet and recommended by the experts, is the quickest route to compliance and charges NO private vehicles.
For people who do not support the current proposal, including the small area diesel ban, you are left with having to implement a larger area charging zone that reaches compliance later.
Many questions are being asked about the details but we are still working through the processes that will answer them. Many people are asking about exemptions and of course, we are acutely aware of the need to mitigate hospital visits, disabled travellers, protect the local economy and jobs but this is all contained in the next part of the work.
If cabinet agrees this outline business case and government has agreed the principle of the zone and implemented the secondary legislation required, we will do the work required to look at potential exemptions, including the impact on people who live in the zone and the examples listed above.
We will also be hoping to introduce a scrappage scheme to allow people financial support to change cars to a compliant model.
As part of our work, we will be improving public transport through our bus deal, improved cycling and walking infrastructure and of course, progress our work towards the mass transit, underground system.
By March 2020, we hope to be able to publicise the final plan, having consulted on mitigations, exemptions and requirements.
The zone, once agreed, will go live in April 2021.
Marvin Rees is the elected mayor of Bristol