Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said that the region could look to restrict certain vehicles from operating in polluted parts of the city region in order to address air pollution.
However, the Mayor has repeated his claim that no vehicle charging scheme will be implemented as part of any air quality measures, a step he had ruled out shortly after his election last year (see airqualitynews.com story).
The Mayor gave the keynote address at the LowCVP ‘Moving North’ conference in Manchester yesterday (12 April), which looked at steps forward to cut carbon emissions and air pollution from transport systems in the north.
During his address, Mr Burnham claimed that cities have a major role to play in efforts to promote low carbon vehicles, and outlined work to promote low emission vehicles within Manchester, including the recent announcement of a network of plug-in vehicle charging points across the city (see airqualitynews.com story).
He also addressed the steps being taken within the region to bring nitrogen dioxide air pollution levels in line with legal limits.
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 Mayor said: “We have been asked, as other areas have, where in places we have illegal air in part, we have been asked to submit our plan to the government of what we intend to do about it. All areas have to have a plan to ensure that air quality is within legal limits and that needs to happen in the next few years.
“One of the proposals on the table there, for example, is the whole idea of clean air zones.”
On the potential for an introduction of a charge, he added: “We had a debate about a congestion charge here, and we are not going back to a debate about a mass charge for the public. Could we begin to restrict the movement of certain vehicles in the areas where the air quality is unacceptably poor and damaging people’s health? I certainly feel we should. Maybe starting with the most polluting HGVs, but then perhaps moving to other vehicles.”
Mr Burnham added that he would not like to ‘punish’ consumers who had bought diesel cars ‘in good faith’ – and called for incentives from government to move people towards cleaner vehicles.
He said: “This is where the partnership with the government comes into play, because I don’t want to punish people who have bought diesel cars and vehicles in good faith. A few years ago everybody was being told that that was an environmental move, but I think if we are going to be bold at this level it needs to be matched by government to give people the incentives to move to the vehicles that wouldn’t be banned from a clean air zone.
“This is very early thinking, and no decisions have been taken but we are being told that we have to move in this direction because of the whole clean air drive that is coming from the government.”
Speaking after the Mayor, Simon Warburton, transport strategy director at Transport for Greater Manchester confirmed that the city region has submitted its initial clean air proposals to government – and claimed that any measures to tackle air pollution would seek to ‘remove the polluter altogether’ rather than following a ‘polluter pays’ principle.
He said: “I think that there is a challenge in terms of the polluter pays principle and the challenge is that clean air zone is not there to generate a revenue for us, a clean air zone is there to clean up the air. So the clean air zone policy framework that we ultimately need to develop and agree in Greater Manchester needs to be the one that as quickly as possible, removes the polluter from that particular territory and therefore the payment issue is no longer the issue and the pollution issue is no longer an issue for the place.
“That is what we are focused on rather than getting into any long term polluter pays principle, we don’t think that is the exam question we have been asked to try and answer here.”
Clean air plans across the north of England were among the key topics for discussion at the conference, which also looked at business opportunities for the region’s firms supplying the low carbon automotive market.
Among the speakers Neil McGonigle, head of cities, North & West England for ride hailing service Uber, outlined the steps that the global firm is taking to prepare for the introduction of tougher measures to tackle air pollution across the UK.
“That altruistic goal of helping to improve air quality is no different to many other companies, but for us there is also a fairly hard-edged financial interest because the reality is if people choose to no longer want to live in work in or visit our cities because they are so dirty and so polluted then quite simply, we at Uber no longer have a business in helping people and things move around cities.”
Among the steps that the company is taking is the establishment of a Clean Air Fund, announced last year, that will offer drivers up to £5,000 towards the cost of a low emission vehicle. The fund will be paid for via a small ‘clean air levy’ added to each journey, as well as a £2 million investment fro the company.
On clean air zones, Mr McGonigle expressed concern at some proposals to exempt private vehicles from any requirements intended to tackle air pollution.
“At Uber we are hugely supportive of the initiatives that are taking place in cities around the UK now, whether it is city centre pedestrianisation, whether it is the clean air zones.
“One thing that we will note around clean air zones, I think it is really important to ensure that they don’t discriminate against buses, taxis and private hire vehicles, in favour of private cars.“