The march of the cities considering implementing clean air charges (sorry, regulations) continues apace with the latest appearing from Bath and North East Somerset Council. In fairness to the council, they claim that they are simply implementing the legal instructions passed to them by central government.

The worry here is that as part of the proposed zone will include the A36/A46 link road, this cuts Bath off to HGV traffic – unless the vehicle has extremely low emissions or the charge is paid. The report says ‘Somerset is listed as an authority upon which the Government has placed legal duties to ‘develop and implement a plan designed to deliver compliance in the shortest time possible’. This plan may include a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) or other measures if they can deliver compliance as quickly as a CAZ. […] The consultation on the actions identified in this draft document will inform what other measures (such as an A36/46 link road, local freight consolidation by cargo bikes, staggered business and school hours or Metrobus/Light Rapid Transit system) could be modelled in order to identify potential reductions in concentrations of nitrogen dioxide’.

On the 17 October the RHA commented on this plan through a press release. In it they state ‘The Road Haulage Association has criticised Bath and North East Somerset Council’s plans to charge hauliers £100 per day to enter a Bath clean air zone. The council plans to target pre-Euro VI trucks in a bid to reduce emissions. In a significant move the zone takes in a section of the A36 – a primary freight route for the region which effectively bypasses the city.’

RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett said: “This will be a disaster for hauliers operating in the region. Not only is the council targeting firms delivering in Bath but they’re punishing companies who use the A36 to move goods elsewhere too.”

The A36 is a significant route connecting Somerset with other parts of the country, but the £100 charges will see lorries displaced along local roads less suited to freight traffic.

“It’s clear that the local authority has no understanding about how the supply chain works,” he continued. “You can’t just make it prohibitive for lorries to use a major route and hope there won’t be consequences.” He warned that operators of pre-Euro VI trucks avoiding the charges will incur extra miles and hours they can’t absorb.

Perhaps removers local to the area should start asking questions about access to carry out their legitimate business of moving people’s furniture and belongings? However, we believe this is likely to affect many who need to pass through the area without taking a lengthy detour to avoid the CAZ and in consequence use more of the earth’s precious resources in doing so!

Bath is not alone in the drive for cleaner air. Leeds City Council are also considering introducing a £50 charge to enter their proposed CAZ for non-Euro VI trucks. RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett commented on this plan as well: “These charges would be disastrous for hauliers. An average SME operator makes around £60 profit per truck, per week, so how can anyone expect them to absorb up to £350 each week to deliver the goods the city relies on?” Mr Burnett has called into question the city’s claim that they could offer funding towards retrofit options for hauliers. Whilst retrofitting is available for buses there’s still no product on the market for trucks. Instead, he urged the local authority to support hauliers to upgrade their fleets to the newest standard.

But why a charging zone in the first place? Aren’t there ways to reduce emissions that avoid penalising businesses with prohibitive costs? Nottingham City Council is proving that it’s possible. They’re set to meet their emissions targets by retrofitting buses with clean exhaust technology and bringing in stricter requirements for taxis and private hire vehicles.

“Nottingham’s approach shows that a local authority can plan to reduce emissions by putting their faith in sustainable transport technology. Whereas Leeds is adopting a punitive charging policy that will see hauliers go out of business. We urge Leeds to phase the implementation of the CAZ to give operators a realistic timeframe to upgrade their trucks.”

As soon as the proposals are ratified by the council they’ll be submitted to the Government for approval.