The LEZ agreed last year means the majority of buses in the city centre must now meet minimum emission standards
Brighton & Hove’s first Low Emission Zone has come into force in a bid to improve air quality, meaning that all buses entering the LEZ must now meet Euro 5 emission standards or higher.
The Zone covers Castle Square, North Street and along Western Road as far as Palmeira Square in the coastal city and is only the fourth LEZ to be established in the UK after London, Oxford and Norwich. There have been calls for a national framework of LEZs to tackle UK air pollution (see airqualitynews.com story).
Plans for the LEZ were first agreed in January 2014 (see airqualitynews.com story) and following “constructive discussionsâ€? between the council and all the city’s bus operators as well as the taxi forum , the Zone officially came into force at the start of this week (January 19).
The aim of the LEZ is to improve air quality by reducing levels of nitrogen dioxide, which in some areas are double the European and national legal average annual limits of 40ug3 (microgrammes per cubic metre).
According to Brighton & Hove city council, although the LEZ area is “smallâ€?, the benefits of cleaner buses and taxis will be felt much further afield as almost 98% of bus movements in the city pass through the zone.
As well as meeting Euro 5 standards, bus drivers entering the LEZ now have to switch off their engines if they expect to be stationary in a bus stop for more than one minute, although there are exceptions to this rule to enable heating or air conditioning for “passenger comfort in very hot or cold weather conditionsâ€?.
The council has responsibility for monitoring vehicles entering the LEZ and taking enforcement action if necessary, with exiting CCTV cameras used to enforce bus lanes now also being used to identify any unauthorised vehicles.
If LEZ regulations are not met, the Traffic Commissioner has been given powers to issue fines to bus operators.
Councillor Ian Davey, lead member for transport at Brighton & Hove city council, said: “Poor levels of air quality as a result of transport emissions have been a stubborn problem in some areas for more than 20 years. Positive joint working with bus and taxi operators has led to external funding and a strong commitment to a low emission zone for Brighton & Hove. We’re delighted this is now a reality and it is something we will be building on.â€?
The council explained that pollution in the city at street level is affected by factors such as the position of buildings, street gradients and the way traffic flows, adding that there can be “a huge differenceâ€? in pollution concentrations within a small area.
Pavilion Gardens in the Royal Pavilion has low concentrations compared to nearby North Street, the council said, so plans for construction traffic management, reducing pollution dose and exposure, green planting and optimising traffic light signalling are also being considered by the authority.
The main exemption to the LEZ allows bus operators five years to carry out the “significantâ€? investment needed to bring all fleet up to the required standard, while there is also a permanent exemption for infrequent services which will “have a small impact on the LEZâ€?.
Brighton and Hove Buses – the city’s largest bus operator – is in the process of retrofitting 50 buses to better than Euro 5 standard and buying a further 24 new Euro 6 buses in the spring.
Martin Harris, MD for the company, said: “Our buses will continue to provide the backbone of the public transport system for the city for many years to come, and with a fleet of almost 300 buses operating in compliance with the requirements of the new LEZ, we will do so in ways that continue to balance the needs of bus users and the wider needs of the whole community.â€?
The council also highlighted Cuckmere Buses, a small company made up of volunteers, for having spent £90,000 on a Euro 5 sprinter, as well as Metrobus, which is replacing four buses to Euro 6 in March.
Stagecoach, meanwhile, has invested over £2 million with 12 Euro 5 buses which are now being used on the 700 route in the city.
Managing director of Cuckmere Buses, Philip Ayers, said: “We are delighted to be part of this exciting plan to improve air quality in the city, and are looking to invest further in new clean engine minibuses to extend that to other areas where we operate. Our company has a turnover of just over £200,000 a year, so each new bus represents a huge commitment for us. Our fleet is already 100% low floor easy access and this is the latest step in our 40 year journey to provide bus services for people where commercial operators can no longer afford to operate.â€?
Taxis are not covered by the LEZ conditions in Brighton & Hove, but the council said drivers are voluntarily observing ‘no engine idling’ policies while stationary at taxi ranks. A successful joint funding bid with Brighton & Hove city council also means that a minimum of 25 vehicles will be installed with cleaner exhaust technology.
Jon Andersson, from consultancy Ricardo, which has carried out research into understanding real-world exhaust emissions in Brighton (see airqualitynews.com story), said: “Ricardo is pleased to have been able to provide its vehicle emissions research expertise and knowledge of the latest thinking in clean technology to the council and bus operators so that they can better understand the underlying issues and their potential solutions.â€?