Image supplied by Bristol City Council

Commercial vehicles will need to pay to enter the proposed clean air zone

Bristol City Council has approved a plan to ban privately-owned diesel vehicles from the city centre, the first of its kind in the UK.

Under the plan, part of the city centre will become a Clean Air Zone (CAZ), similar to the one in London. This will use a number plate recognition system to identify diesel vehicles entering it. The area includes part of the M32 and A4, along with the old city, Redcliffe, Spike Island, the Harbourside and part of Hotwells.

Taxis and vans will be charged £9 per day to enter the CAZ, while HGVs and buses will be charged £100. Private diesel cars will not be charged to enter the zone.

The clean air zone contains a smaller zone in which privately-owned diesel cars will be banned from entering entirely between 07:00 and 15:00. Commercial vehicles can enter the central ban zone, so long as they have paid to enter the CAZ. Any diesel vehicle driving in the ban zone that has not paid, except for taxis and emergency services, will be fined.

Bristol City Council has not yet announced what the fine will be for vehicles entering the ban zone without paying. Details about exemptions to the ban have also still to be finalised.

The scheme will need government approval, after which it will come into effect in 2021.

Obligations

Bristol is legally obligated to reduce NOx levels. It was ordered in 2017 by the government to submit a proposal to reduce NOx levels in the shortest possible time by 31 December 2018. The council missed deadlines in August and September, increasing pressure to act.

The new plan is expected to comply with clean air legislation by 2025.

The council’s own reports have calculated that deaths of about 300 Bristol residents were down to air pollution each year. Traffic congestion has also been estimated to cost the city around £350 million per year.

The plan by the council assumed that the first year will see is 833,000 non-compliant vehicles (split across LGV, HGV, and buses) driving into the zone.

With over 95% of all LGVs and 99% of HGVS being diesel powered in the UK, the vast majority of these vehicles will be affected. In 2017, 4447 LGVS, 910 HGVS and 369 buses and coaches used the M32, out of a total of 39,754 vehicles. As such, the number of fleet vehicles being affected by the clean air zone on the M32 will be minimal.

For bus and LGV operators working in the city centre, the choice will be between upgrading their fleet or accepting the fines as part of the cost of doing business.

For more information: www.bristol.gov.uk