Clean air plans are failing logistics

Tunbridge Wells, UK: The Freight Transport Association has hit out at the latest clean air plans by Newcastle City Council and also Bath and Northeast Somerset.

The association recognises the need for air quality improvements but objects to clean air zones that are little more than stealth taxes on the local businesses and vehicle operators.

Newcastle’s planned Clean Air Zone will see one lane of the Tyne Bridge closed in each direction but, says the FTA, that will not deliver the desired improvements in air quality and will simply increase road congestion.

“In the opinion of our [FTA] members, NCC needs to reconsider its proposal to close one lane of the Tyne Bridge in each direction; this approach will significantly increase road congestion and air pollution in the local vicinity, and have an impact on journey times and costs,” said Mags Simpson, head of northern England policy, FTA.

“Following months of productive meetings with NCC – where plans were amended to represent a smaller area of the city and provide more support for van operators in particular – FTA and its members are bewildered by this sudden change of plan.”

“FTA’s members were truly shocked by the recent adjustments, especially given the record number of responses to the Council’s previous consultations: more than 20,000. And this recent announcement has left some of our members questioning the Council’s motives; they are concerned that the focus has shifted to revenue generation as opposed to the original goal – cleaning the air of Newcastle,” SImpson said.

On 14 January 2020, FTA met with members from across the North of England; top of the agenda was the recent changes announced by NCC. Simpson says “the Newcastle CAZ involves daily charges for vehicles entering the city centre; but not private cars. Cities need goods to operate effectively and these charges are a significant financial burden to any operator trying to work in and around Newcastle; it is unfair to expect businesses to bear the cost of cleaning Newcastle’s air alone.”

Bath & North East Somerset Council today (17 January 2020) introduced a planned £9 daily fee for high-emission vans and £100 for HGVs and buses.

Chris Yarsley, policy manager for the southwest, said: “A Class C charging clean air zone is the worst option for businesses in Bath and the regional economy; it will directly impede the work of the region’s business community.

“FTA is disappointed by Bath & North East Somerset Council’s decision to proceed with an air quality scheme that will exclude private cars and place the heavy financial burden of improving the city’s air quality on commercial vehicle operators.

“This decision is tantamount to a stealth tax on the hard-working local businesses and vehicle operators which already contribute so much to the public purse and help keep Bath functioning by delivering the goods and services that supermarkets, schools, and other businesses need operate.
“While FTA and its members are fully supportive of the need to improve air quality in the UK’s cities, a charging CAZ is not the most effective method to do so; other solutions can deliver a better outcome in a quicker time frame, without damaging the local economy. In the view of FTA, Bath & North East Somerset Council would be better placed to concentrate on traffic management and encourage the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles.”
The planned scheme will now be shared with the government for final approval; if agreed, the Council is aiming to launch the CAZ in November 2020.


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