Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said he has ‘no intention’ of introducing a congestion charge in the area, as Manchester authorities prepare detailed proposals to tackle air pollution.
Seven authorities within the Manchester metropolitan area – Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Salford, Tameside and Trafford – are named within the government’s nitrogen dioxide plan as requiring to draw up proposals to deal with persistent pollution emissions.
The plan requires authorities to look at measures to drive down harmful pollution from transport including potentially introducing clean air zones to restrict the movement of the most polluting vehicles.
Some authorities are considering introducing charging zones as a means of limiting traffic, although the government has said that this should be considered as a last resort where other measures are could have a similar effect.
Media reports in May suggested that Manchester could be set for a charging system, with drivers paying to use their vehicles, but this has swiftly been rebuffed by the Mayor.
Commenting on the potential for a charge to be introduced in Greater Manchester, he said: “I have no intention of introducing charges on the ordinary motorist. We need to improve air quality in Greater Manchester, but I have no plans for a congestion charge and no intention at all of punishing drivers of diesel vehicles.â€?
Studies are due to be undertaken to assess the feasibility of one or several clean air zones to be established within the conurbation, and conversations between the authorities and the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU), as well as Highways England, are ongoing.
Wider plans to tackle air pollution across Manchester are being driven by two pieces of work already in place, the Greater Manchester Low Emission Strategy and the GM Air Quality Action Plan 2016-2021, both of which were published in December 2016, and have been jointly steered by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Transport for Greater Manchester.
The plans outline a host of measures being taken to address air pollution emissions across Manchester.
Increasing adoption of electric vehicles is one of the key actions identified within the Low Emission Strategy, and Greater Manchester currently has around 200 publicly available electric vehicle charging points available to drivers. However, TfGM has identified that Lyon in eastern France as a similar sized area with a comparable population density has some 700 publicly available points – meaning that further investment is likely to be needed.
TfGM is also taking steps to progress several fleet accreditation schemes, including running two Eco Stars pilots with a specific focus on areas with high density for logistics operators and working to consolidate freight movements across the city.
A spokesperson for TfGM, said: “We are working together to identify and drive forward solutions to address some of the joint challenges, while seeking to encourage the industry to change their behaviour for the common good.
“Through the [Freight] Forum we are working with a number of private sector partners on initiatives to reduce the number of deliveries at the most congested times. Engagement is ongoing with local authorities and the private sector regarding the implementation of consolidation models, Delivery and Servicing Plans, Construction Logistic Plans and retiming deliveries.â€?
Options are also being considered for reducing emissions from the region’s bus fleet, with options including retrofitting and replacement of vehicles with low-emission alternatives on the table.
The spokesperson added: “We will endeavour to work with Greater Manchester’s bus operators to explore the available options. Investment in local bus fleets will be critical to ensuring bus plays its role in addressing air pollution, both through cleaner vehicles and by offering a more attractive way to travel than the private car. We will await the government’s announcement about potential for a new Green Bus Fund.â€?