The governmentâ€™s minister for roads and local transport, Jesse Norman, has identified clean air zones as an â€˜important partâ€™ of the governmentâ€™s strategy to reduce air pollution in towns and cities in England.
The minister, who was speaking at a fringe session at the Conservative Part Conference in Manchester earlier this week (2 October), said that improving air quality is an â€˜overwhelming goalâ€™ within the Department for Transport.
The panel session, titled â€˜How to clean up road transport?â€™ was organised by the Policy Exchange think tank, and looked at the future of low emission vehicles in the UK.
In his introduction, Mr Norman said: â€œIâ€™m a road user myself, I drive a car, Iâ€™m a very keen cyclist. I walk, I take the bus. I have a wide view of how people use roads. I feel exposed to many of the air quality issues when I am sitting behind an old fashioned diesel truck on the streets of London.â€
The minister explained a number of policies that his department is working on to address air quality and carbon emissions from transport, including a number contained within the joint air quality plan that was published in the summer.
â€œObviously youâ€™ll be aware in the context of air quality we have a joint responsibility on this in my Department with Defra and we have made a lot of announcements in the summer,â€ he said. â€œWe will be moving towards specific clean air zones in particular areas of the country.
â€œWe are expecting local government to play a very significant role in that because every area has different specific issues and we have put aside significant amounts of money to help with that transition. Clean air zones are a very important part of that.â€
Mr Norman added that the government is â€˜supportiveâ€™ of scrappage schemes announced by a number car manufacturers, but did not allude to whether the government would be pushing forward with its own ‘targeted’ scrappage scheme, which had been among the measures called for in the government’s air quality plan.
He said: â€œWe would like to see them extended and continued for Euro V vehicles if the economics will work for that.â€
On alternative fuels, he added: â€œWe spent a lot of money subsidising the purchase of electric vehicles, subsidising transport infrastructure in electricity and a certain amount in hydrogen as well and I am looking to continue to work with industry to make that happen further.â€œ
The minister noted that his department is taking a â€˜technology neutralâ€™ approach to low emission transport in order to avoid forcing out some solutions from the market.
He said: â€œWe are trying to strike a balance in being progressive in our support for new technologies but not being discriminatory in a way that prevents new technologies from arising.
â€œThatâ€™s an important principle, it applies not just to the vehicles that travel on our roads but also to the charging infrastructure that goes with them and itâ€™s not just about cars, itâ€™s about the overall transport mix, how you bring in walking and cycling and buses and better use of public transport is a big part of that.â€