Newcastle’s CAZ plans place unfair burden on logistics sector, FTA warns

Newcastle’s CAZ plans place unfair burden on logistics sector, FTA warns

Updated proposals for a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in Newcastle will hurt transport operators and local businesses the most while failing to provide the most effective method to improve air quality, the Freight Transport Association has warned.  

Councillors in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Gateshead are expected to consult on revised proposals for the Clean Air Zone later this month after feedback on earlier proposals, which attracted more than 19,000 responses, highlighted concerns about the potential impact of charges on individuals, businesses and the local economy. 

Under the new plans, non-compliant HGVs will incur a £50 daily charge while vans that do meet emission standards will be charged £12.50 per day from 2021. Private cars will not be subject to the charge although the councils have said they will consider introducing charges for polluting private vehicles at a future date, however this will be subject to a separate consultation and “the level of resource committed from government to providing reliable alternatives”. 

Other measures in the revised plans include: 

• A smaller charging Clean Air Zone covering only Newcastle City Centre. 

• Lane restrictions on the Tyne Bridge and Central Motorway. 

• New delivery hubs for smaller goods vehicles outside of the charging zone, from where ‘last-mile’ deliveries can be made by electric vehicle or cargo bike.

 • Supporting measures, including grants and other help for people to upgrade vehicles, grace periods where some drivers would not be charged when measures are first introduced and exemptions for certain vehicles that would not be charged at all. 

Cllr Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality at Newcastle City Council said: “Simply charging everyone for driving into Newcastle city centre or over our bridges isn’t going to clean up air quality on its own. That’s why we’ve developed a package of measures to address many of the issues the public and businesses raised with us during our first consultation. 

“It’s a very uncertain time for the country’s economy for a lot of reasons and we’re trying to avoid adding disruption to our local economy just to satisfy a narrow focus from government that we’ve consistently argued isn’t comprehensive in what it’s trying to achieve. 

“Our proposals include targeting the heaviest single vehicle polluters first, such as old buses and large HGVs. Our proposals to government include mitigation and grant provision to upgrade or replace old dirty vehicles to more compliant models as well as ways of making bus services more affordable and practical for everyone. 

“At the same time, we want to improve our key roads and reduce congestion to keep traffic moving and prioritise public transport. We’re trying to take the opportunity to do essential works to the Tyne Bridge, subject to government funding. This will play a key role in not only addressing air quality but ensuring the public recognise we are joined up in our approach.” 

Margaret Simpson, Head of Policy for Scotland & Northern England at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said it is unfair to place the burden of cost on the shoulders of local businesses and transport operators and urged the councils to include private cars in the proposals. 

Miss Simpson continues: “CAZs do not provide any lasting benefit to air quality, as the Euro VI/6 vehicles required to enter a zone without charge will come into fleets of their own accord, as part of the natural fleet replacement cycle. In fact, by the start of 2021, FTA estimates that more than half of the UK truck fleet will already be Euro VI, meaning the scheme will soon be redundant. In the view of FTA, to secure long-term air quality improvements Newcastle City Council would be better placed to focus its resources on incentivising the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles. 

“We are, however, pleased to see in the new plans that the geographical area has been significantly reduced, this will limit its impact on businesses operating in the area. We are calling on anyone who will be affected by the Zone to submit their response to the updated plans; do not miss this chance to have your say.”