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Birmingham starts 12-month clean air zone research trial

Number plate recognition cameras will be used to gather data on vehicles entering city ahead of charge zone being introduced

Birmingham council has started gathering vehicle emissions data using cameras on key road routes as part of the UK government’s plan to introduce a ‘Clean Air Zone’ in the city.

Birmingham has installed seven number plate recognition cameras to collect emissions data

Birmingham has installed seven number plate recognition cameras to collect emissions data

The £50,000 12-month project began this week, with seven APNR (automatic number plate recognition) cameras being used to capture the Euro emissions classifications of cars, vans and lorries driving through the city centre, the city council announced yesterday (February 17).

Information gathered as part of the trial will feed into Defra ‘scoping studies’ in order to ‘confirm overall emissions levels and identify tipping points whereby the levels become legally acceptable based on the types of vehicle in use’.

It comes as part of the government’s new air quality plan designed to bring UK zone into compliance with EU nitrogen dioxide limits, which saw Defra commit to introducing Clean Air Zones – essentially low emission zones –in five English cities by 2020, including Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton (see AirQualityNews.com story).

As such, the 12-month trial is being partly funded through Defra grants to the Low Emissions Towns and Cities Programme (LETCP) – a seven-strong partnership of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton councils – which is providing £30,000.

The remaining £20,000 is being contributed by Birmingham city council, which is working on the trial with German technology giant Seimens and highways and infrastructure firm Amey.

The council then hopes to have a Clean Air Zone – where certain higher-polluting diesel vehicles but not private cars would be charged to travel through – fully in place by around 2018/19.

Midlands

According to Defra analysis, the West Midlands area will not be compliant with EU air quality law under current plans until 2025, which is 15 years after the original legal compliance date, leaving the UK at risk of fines from the European Commission.

“Road transport emissions are reported to account for around 600 premature deaths each year in Birmingham alone – meaning this is a 21st Century public health scandal” – Cllr Lisa Trickett

Therefore, according to the city council, in order to avoid these fines being passed down from Defra, Birmingham “must explore every possibility”, with the trial which began this week providing a better understanding of the technological options of a Clean Air Zone.

Birmingham councillor Lisa Trickett, cabinet member for sustainability, said: “Successive governments pushed the use of diesel technology as a way of reducing environmentally harmful carbon emissions – but the knock-on effect has been an increase in levels of pollutants that are harmful to human health, such as nitrogen dioxide in towns and cities across the country.

“Road transport emissions are reported to account for around 600 premature deaths each year in Birmingham alone – meaning this is a 21st Century public health scandal, and there is no escape from the need to look at how we can reduce these emissions.”

Congestion

Councillor Trickett continued: “Here in Birmingham we have been concerned by this for a long time. Through our Birmingham Connected urban mobility plan and the Birmingham Development Plan we are looking at how we can deliver better long-term sustainable public and private transport options to alleviate wider issues of traffic congestion, but we also need to do something on air quality.

“The government’s announcement of Clean Air Zones for a number of towns and cities entirely justifies the efforts we have been making for some time on this front, however I want it to be made absolutely clear that we are not talking about issuing fines or charges at this stage – we are simply gathering data on the Euro classification of vehicles coming into the city that is essential to informing our clean air plans going forward. Any eventual CAZ would also not apply to private motor vehicles and this is not a congestion charge.”

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