The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) today launched its ABCAZ (Against Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone) campaign as a result of Birmingham City Council’s controversial and unpopular plan to impose a daily charge on non-compliant vehicles using roads inside the A4540 Middleway Ring Road from 1st January 2020.
Vehicles that fail to meet minimum emissions standards will be charged £8 per day if they are a car, taxi private hire vehicle or van. HGVs, coaches and buses will pay a daily charge of £50.
ABD Environment spokesman Paul Biggs, who lives in the West Midlands, said:
“The daily charges are unlikely to have a significant positive impact on air quality, but they could have a devastating financial effect on individuals and businesses that cannot afford to buy newer compliant vehicles. UK Air quality has improved significantly since 1970 with Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) and Particulate (PM2.5) emissions down 70% and 78% respectively.
I urge Birmingham City Council to end its policy of deliberate congestion-causing measures, which increase emissions and create air pollution hot-spots.”
The Birmingham CAZ charge fails any reasonable cost-benefit analysis: The purely theoretical health and environmental benefits are £38 million over 10 years, at an overall negative cost of £122 million. Birmingham are also seeking an additional £69 million from the government to support the CAZ plans. Given the potential damage to the local economy, plus the fact that only 11.5% of people who responded to the CAZ consultation supported the plan, the ABD is calling for the CAZ to be scrapped.
Notes for Editors:
ABCAZ Website: www.abcaz.org.uk
ABD Contact Page: http://www.abd.org.uk/xabout/contact/
ABD Report: Air Quality and Vehicles – The Truth: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Air-Quality-and-Vehicles-The-Truth.pdf
The ABD reveals that modest three years old ‘eco branded’ family hatchbacks will soon be effectively banned from inside the London North and South Circular roads. That approach will likely be copied in cities and towns across the UK:
Owners of many just over three years old top selling diesel hatchbacks branded ‘eco’ or ‘blue’ will soon wake up to a shock as huge charges will effectively ban cars from towns and cities including some 2015 registered ‘Eco’ or ‘Blue’ branded Fiestas, Focus, Golfs, Corsas, Astras etc (see list below). When these charges are imposed owners will see their cars plummet in value.
ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries comments: “Many people think that as they don’t drive in London, or that they drive newish ‘eco’ cars, this won’t affect them. They are wrong. The UK Government have given powers to local authorities to introduce emissions-based charges pretty much at their whim and with no justification.
Councils all over the UK are looking to copy Sadiq Khan’s lead, Manchester being well advanced in its plan. Values of the many affected cars, and even some that are not currently affected, will fall due to fear of future charges long before they even happen. If the government wish to avoid ‘Yellow Vest’ style protests they need to act now, remove such powers from local authorities and ban all such schemes.”
The ABD searched the London ULEZ site (applying within the congestion charge zone from 2019 and spreading beyond from 2021) using genuine registration numbers of a number of modern family hatchbacks taken from online car sales websites.
Check your car here: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/ultra-low-emission-zone/vrm-checker-ulez
Here are just some of the cars falling foul of ULEZ charges:
2015 Citroen C3 Edition 1.6 Bluehdi 100 Edition 5dr 90bhp
2015 Citroen C4 1.6 e-HDi Airdream VTR+ Hatchback 5dr Diesel 115bhp
2015 Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi ECOnetic Style 5dr 94bhp
2015 Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi 115 Zetec 5dr 113bhp
2015 Fiat Panda 1.2 MULTIJET POP 5d 75 BHP
2015 Fiat 500 Lounge1.3 Multijet 3dr 95bhp
2015 Nissan Juke 1.5 ACENTA DCi 5 DOOR 110 BHP
2015 Renault Clio 1.5 dCi ECO Expression + 5dr 90bhp
2015 Toyota Auris 1.4 D-4D Excel (s/s) 5dr 90bhp
2015 Vauxhall Corsa 1.3CDTi Ecoflex Design 94BHP
2015 Vauxhall Astra 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex Elite 163 bhp
2015 Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 16V Ecoflex Design 5dr 108bhp
2014 VW Golf 1.6tdi estate 89 bhp and 108 bhp
2015 VW Golf hatch 1.6tdi Bluemotion tech S 104bhp
2015 VW Golf Bluemotion 1.6tdi estate 108bhp
The likely proliferation of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) in many of the UK’s cities with many of them introducing charging systems for non-compliant vehicles will lead to the widespread adoption of camera systems for enforcement. That is how the London Congestion Charge and the expanded ULEZ which will cover most of London is being enforced. In other words, cameras everywhere.
One inconvenience for drivers would have been the complexity of paying the charges if local councils all operated their own systems. This is already a problem in London where there is no common registration and auto-payment system for the Congestion/ULEZ system and the Dartford Crossing on the M25. But the Government have already anticipated this according to a report in Local Transport Today who were told that the Government is setting up a central payment system to support the local authorities. It seems that local authorities will still have a role in enforcement however – that probably means they will be able to retain the profits they can make from fines which will of course make such systems even more attractive than they would otherwise be.
As the ABD said in our recent press release announcing the publication of the truth about air pollution and vehicles (see http://www.abd.org.uk/air-quality-and-vehicles-the-truth/ ), the prime objective [from attacks on allegedly polluting vehicles] often appears to be simply the desire to extract money from car drivers and other vehicle users. Local authorities will perceive this as a godsend to solve their budget problems.
A national system of collecting payment for local CAZs does of course mean that introducing a national road pricing system would be very easy – just need to put up lots of cameras. Indeed with most of the major conurbations covered by CAZ and charging systems, that’s what we will have in place and ready to use for wider purposes.
There is strong public resistance to road pricing. But you can see the way the wind is blowing on this subject. You’ll know when it happens when the current air pollution legal limits are met but the enforcement stays in place or is extended to lower emission vehicles. Anyone wish to take a bet on that?
NO₂ Impact in Doubt
One of the reasons why the Government has mandated CAZs for many cities is the failure to comply with current legal limits on NO₂ (Nitrogen Dioxide). That gas was judged to have a major impact on life expectancy from past scientific studies even though it is difficult to separate out the impact of NO₂ from other pollutants such as particulates. Now COMEAP, the Government sponsored authority on this subject, have published a report that questions the impact of NO₂ with committee members taking varied views on whether it has any impact on health at all. The committee settled on an estimate that reducing NO₂ by 1 μg/m3 would increase life expectancy by around 2 to 5 days, but some committee members fundamentally disagreed on even that calculation. See the COMEAP report here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/734799/COMEAP_NO2_Report.pdf for details.
It would seem that Government policy is being driven by dubious or uncertain science. But drivers on the roads of major cities will be facing big cost increases as a result.
Meanwhile Birmingham’s CAZ is shown as being poor value for money based on an economic appraisal by the local Council. Even taking into account the health and environmental benefits of £38 million over ten years, the costs imposed on drivers and vehicle owners results in overall negative costs of minus £122 million as a “net present value”. So just as with the extended ULEZ in London, we are seeing decisions being taken to pursue hopelessly unjustifiable attacks on air pollution.