Drivers of the most polluting vehicles would have to pay a fine from July 2020 when entering Birmingham City Centre if the clean air zone is implemented from July 2020.
The initiative comes into effect as a way of curbing air pollution in some cities in the UK which includes Birmingham as well. Here’s how it happened and what you need to know about it.
What actually happened?
It all began in 2015 when the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ordered ministers to take immediate action to cut air pollution after a case was brought by the environmental law organization ClientEarth.
The organization insisted that not enough was being done after the UK breached EU limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – a gas produced by diesel vehicles which can decrease lung function.
In response, the government called for five cities to establish a Clean Air Zone (CAZ): Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Nottingham, and Derby.
In 2017, the government was threatened again and was issued a final warning by a concerned European Commission to comply with the air pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or face a case at the European court of justice
Thereafter, Birmingham city council submitted its full business case in 2018 December after being required by the Government to achieve compliant air quality limits in the shortest possible time. The plan was approved in March and scheduled to be implemented by January 2020.
What are the charges?
Clean Air Zone charges are based on the vehicle and not the person driving, or any passengers or goods being carried. Charges depend on the type of vehicle and what sort of engine it has.
To avoid paying to drive in the Clean Air Zone the vehicle will need to meet certain criteria, depending on the fuel type:
- Diesel – Euro 6 (VI) standard or better.
- Petrol or LPG added to original petrol engine – Euro 4 standard or better.
- Gas – Euro 6 (VI) standard or better.
- Fully electric or hydrogen fuel cell – all are compliant and avoid CAZ charges.
- Hybrid electric – the diesel/petrol engine must meet the relevant criteria above.
If the above criteria are not met, cars, taxis, LGVs, and minibuses will be charged £8 per day while HGVs, coaches, and buses are charged £50 per day.
The council has encouraged people to use the Transport for London (TfL) website to see if their vehicles will be compliant.
If the vehicle does not meet the criteria above, drivers are permitted to make their vehicles compliant by fitting a retrofit technology. This must be approved by the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS).
Are there any exemptions?
There will be some exemptions if the drivers fall into one of the following categories:
- If the vehicle is not CAZ compliant and registered in the CAZ area since before September 2018. The council would not charge the vehicle until 2022.
- If the vehicle is not CAZ compliant but being driven to a place of work in the CAZ and the driver earns less than £30,000 per year. The council would not charge the vehicle until 2021. The council had also promised additional help in the form of public transport tickets or money towards a replacement compliant vehicle. More information can be found on the BrumBreathes website.
- All specialist vehicles in which the engines cannot be upgraded will be exempt from the CAZ charge for at least the first year of operation. These include specialist emergency vehicles (ambulance, fire, and police), historic vehicles that fall under the historic tax charge, military vehicles and show vehicles.
- Visitors to the hospitals within the CAZ and vehicles with disabled or disabled passenger tax classes will be exempted throughout.
The council also hopes to offer additional incentives in the form of public transport tickets or money towards a replacement compliant vehicle. Additional incentives will be given to the taxi drivers and HGV and coach drivers as well.
Where does it actually apply?
Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone will cover all the roads within the A4540 Middleway Ring Road, but not the Middleway itself.
For example, drivers traveling on the M6 who leave at Spaghetti Junction would be charged if they go right through the city centre on the A38.
The council believes the ring road is a sensible boundary that is clear to motorists and the clean air zone covers most of the worst pollution hotspots in the city.
The charges will be applied daily. A non-compliant vehicle driving in the CAZ will pay once for the day, then may drive in the CAZ area without limit on that day.
How do I pay the clean air charge?
Vehicles entering the area inside the ring road will be picked up by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras, so there won’t be any barriers or toll booths.
For those who do incur charges, these will be payable online. And if you don’t pay up, you could face a £120 fine under proposals.
However, people will not pay for vehicles below the emissions standard if they are parked within the zone all day but are not turned on.