The introduction Clean Air Zones in British cities will be postponed until January 2021 at the earliest due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Clean Air Zones planned for Bristol, Birmingham and Leeds, among other locations in the UK, are designed to limit the number of polluting vehicles driving in city centre during certain periods.
The Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London serves as a model for the Clean Air Zones. The maintenance of London’s ULEZ has also been hit by the Coronavirus as charges have also recently been temporarily suspended. The easing of restrictions has been part of a number of measures to enable as much mobility as possible for emergency and health sector workers.
Chief executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Agency (BVRLA) Gerry Keaney said: “This is a very sensible decision in the current circumstances. It gives some temporary respite for businesses and individuals trying to come to terms with the current health crisis and gives the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) extra time to make sure that key systems such as the centralised payment portal are fit-for-purpose and more fleet friendly.”
In a letter to the Freight Transport Association (FTA), the Ministry of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) justified the decision by saying that it would make it easier for companies to concentrate on overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. The logistics industry is also suffering in the UK from declining employee numbers and increased pressure from “social distancing” rules. For the time being, the changeover to cleaner fleets for entering the Clean Air Zones is now being put on hold.
Natalie Chapman, head of urban policy at the FTA, said: “With the industry focusing all its attention on ensuring the public, supermarkets and other retailers continue to receive the essential items they need during the pandemic, logistics businesses simply do not have the resources to dedicate to preparing for the imminent introduction of CAZs.”
Before COVID-19 put things up in the air, so to speak, Bristol was not only proposing Clean Air Zones but also to ban entry by private diesel vehicles between 7 am and 3 pm, as well as implementing additional charges for high-polluting commercial vehicles.