A quick update on how the UK’s Clean Air Zones affect you
If you frequently use daily car hire, or otherwise drive for your job, then chances are you’re already familiar with the basics of Clean Air Zones. They’re proving somewhat controversial in some circles, but like them or not, they’re here to stay.
To recap quickly, Clean Air Zones are designed to improve air quality, which is becoming a growing issue for people all across the UK - especially those living in the biggest cities. Essentially, they work by imposing a charge on the most polluting vehicles to enter their boundaries. The idea is that this will discourage the use of these polluting vehicles, encouraging motorists to upgrade to newer, cleaner forms of transport. Depending on the vehicle in question that’s being driven, as well as the specific rules of a given zone, drivers might be charged anywhere between £8 to £100 a day.
One of the most well-known Clean Air Zones is of course the Ultra Low Emissions Zone in London. The city’s leadership enacted it after the air quality in some areas became some of the lowest in the entire UK. Now, following the introduction of the ULEZ, now more Clean Air Zones are being implemented in other towns and cities across the country.
We should say of course that not all drivers will be affected. For now, private drivers remain largely exempt - each CAZ will apply mostly to commercial or industrial vehicles. Clean Air Zones will fall into one of three ‘classes’, as detailed below.
- Class A - applies to buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles
- Class B - applies to buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)
- Class C - applies to buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs and light goods vehicles (LGVs)
- Class D - applies to buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs LGVs and cars
Implementing a Clean Air Zone of any size is no mean feat, with many of them having undergone some major re-drafts over the course of their development. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has obviously caused major complications for some of them, and while there are a few that have already launched, others have been cancelled entirely. So, as of May 2021, here’s where each city’s plans for its major Clean Air Zones stand right now.
The North of England and Midlands
Manchester was one of the first cities rumoured to be planning to implement its own Clean Air Zone, and these plans have been in development for a few years now. The most recent major step was the public consultation, which ran between 8th of October to the 3rd of December 2020. The city’s leadership are assessing the collected data and feedback, and have promised that concrete plans will be here soon - no later than the summer of 2021. So more news will be coming in the next few months, if not weeks.
Bradford has finalised its plans for a Clean Air Zone, which has been confirmed to start in January 2022.
Liverpool has been back and forth on its own Clean Air Zone for a little while, but now the City Council has confirmed that the implementation of a Clean Air Zone is “highly likely”, so in all probability, we’ll have another update on that before the end of 2021.
Newcastle was due to introduce its own Clean Air Zone in January 2020, but the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic introduced some serious obstacles to those plans, so for the time being it’s been delayed.
Sheffield and Gateshead have similarly delayed their own Clean Air Zones for the time being, at least at the time of writing. Further updates for these will probably come later in 2021.
Birmingham is due to implement a Class D Clean Air Zone on the 1st of June 2021 - just a few weeks away. As a Class D CAZ, it will charge more polluting cars £8 a day, and HGVs £50 a day to drive through roads within the A4540 Middleway Ring Road. However, the charge doesn’t apply to the Middleway itself.
There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the implementation of Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone, and critics say that there’s not yet sufficient infrastructure in place to support it by giving citizens alternative means to get around. However valid these concerns might be though, it looks as if that implementation date is set in stone as far as the City Council are concerned.
The South of England
Bath has already implemented its own Clean Air Zone, and in fact it was the second major city in the UK to do so, just after London. Bath’s CAZ been active since 15th March 2021, and focuses on more polluting buses, taxis and heavy goods vehicles.
Bristol has yet to set a concrete date for its own Clean Air Zone, but it’s likely to come into effect somewhere around October 2021. The Bristol CAZ will cover a small area of the city centre, targeting the most polluting commercial and private vehicles alike. (The city leadership chose this as their preferred option over the alternative they’d been considering, which was to widen the affected area but have it only apply to the most polluting commercial vehicles.)
Which cities won’t have Clean Air Zones?
We’ve already touched upon how Clean Air Zones can be tricky and sometimes costly to implement, and they’re sometimes controversial amongst the city populace for various reasons, too. Partially for these reasons, several UK cities have elected not to introduce their own Clean Air Zones.
Derby abandoned its plans for a Clean Air Zone after research concluded that it would be able to successfully lower its pollution levels to legal limits without one.
Leeds ceased development of its own Clean Air Zone plans for similar reasons, and indeed the central government went as far as to say that it would no longer support the City Council’s efforts to introduce one.
Coventry decided that it ultimately it would not need a Class D charging Clean Air Zone, which would have introduced charges for higher emissions vehicles. It’s planning to rely on a series of local measures to lower emissions instead.
Leicester is similarly drawing up a list of local proposals to tackle air quality, rather than implementing a Clean Air Zone.
Cardiff abandoned its plans for a Clean Air Zone as it was deemed too expensive and logistically difficult to implement. Instead, the City Council is introducing a package of non-charging measures.
Hull is pursuing a similar plan with its own package of measures as an alternative to a Clean Air Zone.
Will I be charged for driving through a Clean Air Zone?
Well, that’s really the million dollar question, isn’t it? To be honest, that depends heavily on what you’re driving, and sometimes why you’re driving it. If you’re behind the wheel of a bus, HGV or taxi, then chances are you will indeed get charged, whatever class of Clean Air Zone you happen to be driving through. However, if your vehicle uses a sufficiently clean engine, you may be able to dodge the charges.
It’s worth doing a little research in advance on any Clean Air Zones you’re planning on driving through, but general government guidelines say that each vehicle type is expected to reach the following minimum standards:
- Euro 4 for petrol driven vehicles (Euro IV for larger vehicles)
- Euro 6 for diesel driven vehicles (Euro VI for larger vehicles)
If your vehicle reaches those standards, you may well be able to avoid the brunt of the charges. And in case you’re wondering, all our cars here at Intack Self Drive use Euro 6 engines.
If you’ve got any further questions about the emissions of our cars, or indeed any queries at all, don’t hesitate to give our experts a call. We’ll only be too happy to help you get the perfect set of wheels, with the best prices when you come to hire a van, car or minibus. Plus if you’re thinking about using your vehicle for something more long-term on the other hand, our Flexi Hire services are designed to give you the very best value on long-term hire. Feel free to explore the details right here on our site, or give us a ring on 01254 57811!