Published: 27 February 2019
Greater Manchester councils are considering charges for high-polluting HGVs, public transport and taxis – which could be in effect within a few years. Owners of commercial vehicles that go over the emission thresholds could face charges on a daily basis, with region leaders hoping to slash levels of nitrogen dioxide in the area.
Courier drivers with vans as well as many other vehicles are also being considered to be charged from 2023 for the emissions from their vehicles – with the hopes that they will consider more environment-friendly vehicles in the future to further cut emissions across the region.
Set for a Greater Manchester clear zone covering all 10 of the districts in the area – this would be the widest radius for clean air outside of the city of London. Greater Manchester Mayor – Andy Burnham shared his opinion on the matter. Saying it was similar to the ban on smoking in public areas, stating there’s a moment where the thought “We can’t carry on like this.” occurs.
With these plans, the councils hope to receive a financial support package, estimated at around £100m for upgrading schemes. The details were announced on Tuesday, Mr Burnham said the costs are not a congestion charge “Either by the front or back door” and that they don’t plan on including private vehicles in the scheme.
Elaborating, he stated: “This is a health issue that can’t be ignored. I think we’re at a tipping point on the clean air debate similar to the one around a decade ago on smoking in public places.
“Eventually we woke up and said we just can’t carry on like this, there has to be a change.
“Perhaps that change came more quickly because the pollution caused by smoking indoors was visible, air pollution is not visible in the same way but that doesn’t mean it is less damaging.”
The plans for Greater Manchester have come into action as the government have requested many local authorities begin to prioritise planning to cut diesel-related pollution to a legal level. Many council leaders met to discuss the future plans, with an outline revealed in January as part of a wider scheme: the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework proposals.
There will be a two-step approach for these vehicles, if their vehicle models are not upgraded to a model giving out less pollution which would also need to be fitted with monitoring technology – they should expect to see the costs on a daily basis from 2021, if they wish to operate within Greater Manchester.
The current plans involve charges of £100 a day for buses and lorries that do not match emissions standards, while taxis and vans receive a £7.50 fee. If the plans are agreed to following a series of consultations, these plans could be submitted before the end of 2019. Across the country, over 150 cities have been listed as exceeding annual limits of nitrogen dioxide.
Lead Director of public health for Greater Manchester: Eleanor Roaf, spoke on the matter: “We see the impact of polluted air all the time. We should all have the opportunity to be outside all the time, in all weather, and with our current air quality that’s not possible as things are now.
“It’s not fair and it’s not right. It’s limiting life expectancy across Greater Manchester. We can’t afford to continue to have polluted air when there’s so much we can do about it.”
The central government providing a support package would be essential if the plans were to go ahead, supporting businesses and other vehicle owners who are keen to move to low-emission vehicles over the next few years.
Mr Burnham shared his thoughts: “This is a realistic figure based on the evidence. To be honest, the government has not been baulking at this necessarily, they understand this comes at a cost.”
“The figure we’ve put forward is a serious figure. This is the level of support we need, that’s non-negotiable, if it can be done in slightly different ways and they say this element can be done this way, then we will be open to those discussions.”
The Greater Manchester mayor also called upon Highways England to take further action in this regard with motorway networks – in the effort to prevent further air pollution.
He added: “The motorways are a massive source of our problem. Highways England needs to come to the table here, they can’t see themselves as being outside this debate. We had real worries on their position going back six months ago, but I think there has been a change recently. But I don’t think we’re in the same place yet.”
Before the plans can go ahead each of the 10 local authorities will be asked to approve the planned proposals – ready for submission to the government, later in March.