In a bid to curb air pollution, the government will ban new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 and has named specific locations requiring more targeted action, which could include charging zones.
The 2040 ban is the landmark commitment in the plan, which focuses on tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in the worst areas of the country “in the fastest possible time”.
However, the main focus in the near-term is on councils to take targeted action in their local areas.
The local authority areas expected to exceed legal pollution limits beyond 2021 without action will now be required to undertake local assessments and produce action plans by March 2018.
In the North West, this includes Manchester, Stockport, Tameside, Salford, Trafford, Bolton and Bury. The major roads concerned in these areas include parts of the M60, M56, A34, A56, A57, A58, A62, A635, A666 and A5103.
Other local authorities that exceed limits on a lesser scale include Liverpool, Halton, Oldham, Burnley, Sefton, Warrington, South Ribble, Knowsley and Rochdale.
Local authorities will have access to a range of options for their ‘Clean Air Zones’, such as changing road layouts to reduce congestion, encouraging uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles and retrofitting public transport.
However, if these measures are not sufficient to ensure legal compliance, councils will need to consider restrictions on polluting vehicles using affected roads.
“This could mean preventing polluting vehicles using some of these roads at certain times of the day or introducing charging”, the plan states.
The government has conceded that the most effective way to reduce air pollution in the shortest time possible is to introduce a charging zone, but would prefer local authorities to identify other routes to compliance if possible.
All the public money spent on these new air quality measures will be funded through “changes to the tax treatment for new diesel vehicles”, with further details to be announced later this year.
This suggests that a tougher Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) tax regime for diesel vehicles is on the horizon.
Support for motorists
The roadside pollution plan is the first part of a new government programme to deliver clean air - in 2018 the government will publish a wider strategy which will address other sources of air pollution.
Later in 2017, the government will be launching a consultation into measures to support motorists and businesses affected by local authority action plans - such as vehicle retrofitting, subsidised car club memberships, exemptions from vehicle restrictions or a targeted scrappage scheme for older vehicles.