Manchester’s Clean Air Zone plan could see millions of pounds made available for greener taxis and commercial vehicles, while no one will be charged or fined for driving on the region’s roads in older, more polluting vehicles.
Huge public backlash led the region’s leaders to do a U-turn over the original plans, which would have seen the drivers of non-compliant taxis, vans, buses, lorries and coaches being charged £60 a day to drive in the proposed Clean Air Zone from June, 2022.
On top of rising fuel and taxi insurance cost rises, this would have forced taxi drivers put up their prices to operate in the area. It would also mean that £60 would be added to the fare of someone entering Manchester from outside the CAZ.
The controversial Greater Manchester-wide scheme was put on hold and Clean Air Greater Manchester is now waiting on the green light from the Government for its latest plans which call for investment into greener transport, and do not include any charging zones.
Under the plan, the city region is proposing a £22.5m Clean Taxi Fund to provide grants of between £3,770 and £12,560 to help all taxis (Hackney Carriages and Private Hire Vehicles) licensed with a Greater Manchester authority to meet a new minimum emission standard by December 31, 2025.
An £8 million Electric Hackney Upgrade Fund will also provide grants of between £7,530 and £12,560 to help owners of GM-licensed Hackneys who meet the minimum emission standard to help upgrade to a zero-emission capable vehicle.
But the biggest change will come on the buses, with £51.2 million for zero-emission electric buses for the Bee Network.
In September, the region’s bus network was brought back under public control with 64 new zero-emissions Bee buses, which are being seen as the future for public transport. This game-changing move has helped put the combined authority back in the driving seat to tackle pollution, as reported by TaxiPoint.
Clean Air Greater Manchester says this allows zero-emissions buses to be used on routes where they can have the biggest impact on improving air quality, with the goal of an all-electric fleet by 2032.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: “Cleaning up the air that people breathe is a priority for Greater Manchester and we have already started to do that through investment in the Bee Network, which saw the first buses brought back under local control in September.
“By accelerating investment in the Bee Network to create a London-style integrated public transport network, and upgrading GM-licensed taxis, we can improve air quality faster than if we introduced a Clean Air Zone, and without causing hardship to our residents or businesses.
“I’d also ask government to urgently consider allowing Greater Manchester local authorities to remove charging Clean Air Zone signs, as modelling shows that only Greater Manchester’s investment-led plan can meet the legal test placed on the 10 councils to deliver compliance in the shortest possible time and by 2026 at the latest.”
Cllr Eamonn O’Brien, leader of Bury Council and Clean Air lead for Greater Manchester, said: “We want to do the right thing in the right way, using an investment-led, non-charging plan to clean the air in a supportive and transitional way, that does not create the risk of financial hardship.
“While we can now prove our case for an investment-led plan, modelling shows that we can’t achieve compliance through a charging Clean Air Zone by 2026. There is now a compelling case for what Greater Manchester has set out – a plan that is fairer, cheaper, more affordable and more democratic.”
The Government’s decision is expected early this year.
If Greater Manchester’s plan is approved, it could raise questions about other regions with clean air zones, low-emissions zones and ultra-low emissions zones.
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