Flawed Bristol air quality scheme threatens local economy

Earlier this week, Bristol City Council launched its air quality consultation which put forward two options: a charging Class C band Clean Air Zone (CAZ) or a diesel car ban.

However, in the view of the Freight Transport Association (FTA), the business organisation who speaks for the logistics sector, neither of these proposals provides the most effective solution to improving air quality.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

Under the first option – a Class C charging CAZ – van drivers would need to pay a daily fee of £9 to enter the zone; HGVs would pay £100.

And while there is a £2,000 scrappage scheme, it is only open to private cars, despite them being exempt from the CAZ. The council has also proposed 24/7 access restrictions on a number of streets in the city centre for HGVs over 3.5 tonnes.

According to FTA, this option would place the burden of improving air quality solely on the shoulders of business, when all citizens should play their part in the fight against pollution.

A charging CAZ of this scale would cause operating costs for some small businesses to soar. Hard-working companies and individuals – many of whom keep Bristol’s city thriving – would be left to bear the burden of improving air quality alone.

It is unfair to place this solely on their shoulders, when other factors, including private road users, also contribute to emission levels across the city.

After all, why should the logistics sector be left picking up the bill, when private motorists continue to drive unsanctioned?

Bristol City Council must, in the view of FTA, provide a justification as to why it is proposing a Class C band – which excludes private cars – over a Class D band, which encompasses all polluting vehicles.

Compliance

The council launched this consultation without providing any details on how and when it expects to achieve compliance with air quality limits; this information will only be made public approximately halfway through the consultation period.

While the consultation does give the possibility of an exemption for operators based within the zone, or for those with a low turnover, once again, it does not go into any detail. FTA is calling for the council to share a much clearer and more detailed version of its plans.

In the view of FTA, other solutions are able to deliver a quicker, more sustainable improvement to air quality without damaging the local economy.

After all, CAZs bring no long-term air quality benefit; due to natural fleet replacement cycles, all vehicles operating in the city would reach this standard anyway in a few years.

Councils would be better placed to concentrate on traffic management and encourage the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles.

Many other city councils, including Nottingham and Southampton, have convinced Defra of the viability of these alternative schemes.

But if Bristol does decide it must implement a charging CAZ, it should include all vehicle types within its remit; the size should also be kept as small as possible to mitigate the very worst economic damage.

Efficient logistics

While the logistics sector acknowledges the role it must play in improving the air quality of our cities and takes this responsibility very seriously, we do question the methods proposed by Bristol City Council.

We encourage all our members to submit a response to the consultation and have their voices heard.

Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods.

With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.

A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.