Mitigation measures proposed for the country’s two largest clean air zones (CAZs) have been criticised for failing to soften the blow for fleet operators.
London and Birmingham will both charge cars, vans and trucks to enter their zones. However, London has earmarked £23 million for a van scrappage scheme ahead of the introduction of its ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) on April 8.
It has also announced plans for a £25 million car scrappage scheme.
Meanwhile, Birmingham City Council is asking the Government to give operators of non-compliant leased vehicles a year’s grace from the launch of its CAZ next January.
The council has requested £68.7m from Government to fund the zone. If successful, £18m will be spent on signs, cameras and other infrastructure, while £51m will be used for a range of mitigation measures.
They include a scrappage scheme for private motorists, support for the upgrade of taxis and a £1,000 credit for electric van drivers to use on the council’s public charging network.
It is also asking the Government for permission to offer operators of non-compliant light goods vehicles, heavy goods vehicles and coaches, which are on existing leasing agreements and registered in the Birmingham city area, an exemption for a maximum of two vehicles from charges during the first year of the CAZ. The same is being asked for non-compliant vans, trucks and coaches registered within the zone.
Operators of non-compliant vehicles outside the Birmingham area travelling into the zone will not be offered any help.
Raj Kandola, senior policy advisor at the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC), is concerned that the mitigation measures do not go far enough, especially when businesses are facing increased costs through Brexit uncertainty and business rates.
“It’s just going to add to those issues with another layer of cost,” he said. “If the council is reliant on additional funding to introduce these mitigation measures, we need more support from central Government to make them work.”
Birmingham City Council has revealed that private cars, taxis and vans not meeting the latest emission standards will pay £8 per day, while HGVs, coaches and buses will be charged £50 per day.
GBCC is broadly supportive of the air quality restrictions. With almost a thousand deaths per year caused by issues related to poor air quality in the city, “something needs to be done”, Kandola told Fleet News.
“We support the over-arching principles behind the zone; it’s just how we get to that end point.”
He is also concerned about the timeframe: “A business may have spent £1m upgrading their fleet only a few years ago, but it might not comply. You can’t expect them to turn that around in 12 months.”
Furthermore, GBCC is worried how vehicle standards to enter the zone could change in the future.
Kandola said: “If you’re updating your fleet, you need to have some assurances to make informed business decisions. We will continue to push the council for clarity.”
While Birmingham expects to hear from Government on its mitigation measures in spring, London Mayor Sadiq Khan will reveal more details about his van scheme soon.
The scrappage scheme will initially help London’s micro-businesses – those with fewer than 10 employees – to switch to cleaner vans, including electric. Diesel vans not meeting the Euro 6 standard will pay £12.50 a day to enter central London.
Khan, together with other city mayors in the UK100 network, is calling on the Government to establish a £1.5 billion vehicle upgrade fund which could pay for the removal of almost half a million older polluting cars, vans and busses, while incentivising people and business into using low emission vehicles and public transport.
However, Freight Transport Association (FTA) claims the scrappage scheme will fail to deliver help to the vast majority of fleets.
“We need to know how the scheme will work, but I think it will have a negligible effect,” said Natalie Chapman, FTA head of urban policy.
“If you’re replacing with a zero-emission vehicle, you’re talking three or four times as much, which means it’s going to have to be a huge subsidy to make the figures work.”