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Air quality February 2019 update

Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils have been ordered by the government to prepare a plan about what additional actions are required to address pollution caused by vehicles.

This is in response to levels of roadside nitrogen dioxide on certain roads, which are expected to remain above legal limits in 2021.

Potential measures for tackling air pollution and improving public health are due to be considered by councillors.

Cabinet members at Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils will meet in February to confirm the proposals that will go out to public consultation in March.

The options people will be invited to comment on will include:

  • a potential charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) - which the Government has told the three councils they must consider.
  • potential tolls on the three main road bridges over the Tyne - the Tyne, Swing and Redheugh bridges. 
  • a Low Emission Zone where lorries, buses and taxis that do not meet minimum emissions requirements could be banned from entering Newcastle City Centre at certain times.

For more information report about the proposals read the Icon for pdf Cabinetagenda26feb2019 [6.74MB].

Why we are introducing measures to tackle air pollution now

In July 2017 the Government issued a legal order which required Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils to address poor air quality in certain locations. 

This legal requirement applies to several other areas across the country where councils are also looking at ways to improve air quality in their areas.

In Leeds and Birmingham councils have already announced intentions to introduce charging clean air zones following public consultation in their cities.
 
Under the legal order, councils are required to identify and consult on plans that will tackle poor air quality in the shortest time possible by 2021. Councils are also required under the order to consider and consult on a charging Clean Air Zone as government believes this measure will address the problem in the quickest time.

Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils have worked together to identify the potential measures that could be implemented which would improve air quality and meet the requirements of the legal order.

Councils have sought to ensure that potential measures not only improve air quality but also avoid a detrimental impact on the economy, local business and those on lower incomes.

The Clean Air Zone

About a charging Clean Air Zone

Within a charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ), drivers are required to pay a charge if their vehicle does not meet minimum emissions standards.

Charges would only apply to the most polluting vehicles and the charges would be paid per day, not per visit.

The type of vehicle that would be affected depends upon the level of the CAZ. The types of CAZ are:

CAZ classVehicles included
ABuses, coaches and taxis
BAs A with the addition of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)
CAs B with the addition of light goods vehicles (LGVs)
DAs C with the addition of private cars and the option to include motorbikes and mopeds

We have considered all of the different levels of CAZ and the one that gets us closest is a CAZ D. Government has told us we must progress with the option that gets us into compliance in the shortest possible time based on our modelling so the level of CAZ we are considering in our consultation is a class D. This would apply to all vehicles, including taxis, buses, lorries, vans and cars that do not meet certain engine specifications.

Check the engine specification of your car by visiting Euro Standards. 

Newer diesel vehicles and those with zero emissions would not be affected. Nor would many older petrol cars despite them producing more carbon emissions.

Why we are considering a class D charging CAZ

Government has told us that we must put in place measures which bring pollution to within legal limits as quickly as possible by 2021.

We have tested different levels of charging CAZ to try to predict the likely impact they would have on traffic and air quality.

Our tests indicate that lower levels of CAZ, which target fewer types of vehicle, would not achieve improvement quickly enough.

A class D charging Clean Air Zone, which targets all types of vehicle below minimum emissions standards, gets us closest within the timescales. 

However, our tests also showed that even this highest level of charging CAZ would not be enough on its own to address the problem.

In part this is because even Euro 6 vehicles are still polluting so even if considered 'free' by government, they would not have to pay, they are still polluting.

Area covered

The government has told us we have to address, in particular, pollution levels on the Coast Road and the Central Motorway. This is because their model, using national data that does not take into account smaller local roads / local data, indicates issues at these locations.

However, it is not enough to only introduce measures on those individual stretches of road as this risks simply moving traffic - and therefore pollution - onto neighbouring streets and residential areas.

For measures to be successful they need to cover a wider area.

We have tested a potential area for a charging CAZ.

This area covers the two stretches of road which the government has told us we must target along with other areas where we know there have historically been issues with poor air quality. These include Newcastle city centre and the existing Air Quality Management Areas in Gosforth and Gateshead town centre.

Vehicles affected under government's CAZ proposals

Only vehicles that do not meet minimum emissions standards would be charged.

This table provides a basic guide as to which vehicles are likely to meet minimum emissions standards based on the date of registration.

Type of vehicleVehicle registration date required to meet minimum emissions standard Name of minimum emissions standard
Cars, including taxis

Diesel - after September 2015

Petrol - generally after 2005, although cars that meet the standard have been available since 2001

Diesel - Euro 6

Petrol - Euro 4

Vans (LGVs)

Diesel - after September 2016

Petrol - after January 2006

Diesel - Euro 6

Petrol - Euro 4

HGVs, buses and coachesAfter 2014Euro VI

Charges and how much would go to the councils

We have not made any final decisions on what the level of any charges would be. However, the charges we have used as the basis for our testing are:

  • heavy goods vehicles - £50 per day
  • buses - £50 per day
  • coaches - £50 per day
  • taxis /private hire vehicles - £12.50 per day
  • vans - £12.50 per day
  • private cars - £12.50 per day

These charges are based on those tested by other similar cities that are also having to consider introducing charging Clean Air Zones.

The government has suggested that councils should consider charging at twice these rates.

Using the area we have specified, and the levels of charges referenced above (both of which are subject to change following consultation) our modelling suggests that the average annual surplus would be £43million over five years.

Under a system of tolls as an alternative to a CAZ we estimate that surplus to reduce to £17.5million.

How the charges would be used 

Money paid by drivers through charges would be used to cover the cost of running the CAZ or toll system. If there is any surplus after those costs have been covered, it would be reinvested in highways and public transport improvements.

Current estimates suggest that under a CAZ the average annual surplus would be around £43 million over five years, while under a system of tolls this figure would be around £17.5 million.

The tolls

Places the tolls would apply

Tolls would apply on the three-main city centre bridges that carry vehicles over the Tyne. 

These bridges are the Tyne, Swing and Redheugh bridges.

Vehicles that would have to pay

The tolls would apply to all lorries, vans and cars. 

Only buses, taxis and ultra-low emission vehicles would not have to pay tolls.

Charge amounts

As with a charging Clean Air Zone, have not made any decisions on how much any tolls would be but as a guide we have based our testing on the charges for vehicles using the Tyne Tunnel. These are:

  • heavy goods vehicles - £3.40 per journey
  • vans - £1.70 per journey
  • cars - £1.70 per journey

We could look at having different levels of toll, for example, depending on the time of day or vehicle emissions standard.

This could mean that while all lorries, vans and cars would be charged, there might be higher charges for people travelling at peak times, when there is heavier traffic and congestion, or higher charges for vehicles that do not meet minimum emissions standards.

Hadn't councils ruled out a toll to cross the Tyne?

No. Councils have previously confirmed that putting a toll only on the Tyne Bridge would not be an option. This is because it would result in traffic, and therefore pollution, simply being moved onto the neighbouring bridges and surrounding roads rather than being reduced.

The Low Emissions Zone

Low Emission Zones (LEZ)

Under a Low Emission Zone, certain vehicles that do not meet minimum emissions standards would be banned from entering or moving within the proposed area.

Unlike a charging Clean Air Zone, the drivers of those vehicles could not choose to pay a charge to enter the LEZ.

Area covered by a LEZ

This area is smaller than the potential charging CAZ area and is focused on Newcastle city centre.

Vehicles affected by a LEZ

Buses, lorries and taxis that do not meet minimum emissions requirements would be banned from entering the LEZ.

This table provides a basic guide as to which vehicles are likely to meet minimum emissions standards based on the date of registration.

Type of vehicleVehicle registration date required to meet minimum emissions standard 

Name of minimum emissions standard

Taxis

Diesel - after September 2015

Petrol - generally after 2005, although cars that meet the standard have been available since 2001

Diesel - Euro 6

Petrol - Euro 4

Lorries and busesAfter 2014Euro VI

When a Low Emission Zone would come into effect

The aim of a Low Emission Zone is to prevent older and more polluting vehicles from entering. This would target buses, taxis and lorries.

We would work with operators to seek to understand the timescales needed for them to be able to upgrade their vehicles and the introduction of a LEZ would be linked to this.

Support measures

Support for people affected by charges

We know that some people and businesses would need financial support to help them if a charging Clean Air Zone is introduced.

As part of our testing we've looked at how different people would be affected and this has indicated that those on lower incomes and smaller businesses, including taxi drivers and operators, are more likely to need support.

Therefore, alongside the proposed charging CAZ we are also considering what support could be provided and we are seeking government funding to provide support.

Subject to funding this could include:

  • grants of up to £16,000 for HGV upgrades
  • interest-free loans of up to £10,000 for LGV upgrades
  • interest free loans of up to £10,000 OR  grants of up to £1,500 for taxi upgrades
  • car scrappage grants of up to £1,500 
  • £1,000 travel credits to help people within and travelling to the area to use public transport
  • measures to improve walking and cycling routes, particularly focusing on routes to bus and Metro.

Any exemptions to charges

Blue badge holders and certain vehicles, including vintage, military and emergency services vehicles, would likely be exempt from CAZ charges. We will also consider whether other possible exemptions could be made.

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