Signs of change after 100 days of Bath’s Clean Air Zone
After 100 days of operation, Bath & North East Somerset Council has revealed that the number of polluting, chargeable vehicles seen driving in Bath’s Clean Air Zone is gradually falling, as vehicles are replaced with cleaner, compliant ones not subject to charges.
Bath’s Clean Air Zone was launched on 15 March 2021 to urgently tackle harmful levels of air pollution caused mostly by polluting taxis, vans, buses and larger commercial vehicles regularly driving in the city.
A charging zone works to reduce pollution in Bath by levying a £9 or £100 a day charge on anyone driving a higher emission vehicle in the zone. This excludes private cars which are not charged. At the same time, generous grants and interest-free finance is being made available to encourage the swift replacement of these vehicles with cleaner, compliant ones. The aim is to take the city’s most polluting vehicles off the roads more quickly than would otherwise naturally happen – and there is an early sign that this is working.
30,000 to 40,000 unique vehicles enter Bath’s CAZ each day, numbers that have increased week on week since lockdown restrictions have eased. Around 1,100 to 1,400 (3 to 4%) of these vehicles are chargeable, non-compliant vehicles i.e. higher emission taxis, vans, coaches, lorries etc. But while the total number of vehicles entering the zone has risen, the proportion of chargeable vehicles has fallen from around 5 per cent of total vehicles seen, to between 3 to 4 per cent.
The council’s financial assistance scheme is on course to replace 1,500 non-compliant vehicles driving regularly in the zone by the end of the year, and the council is now requesting more funds from the government to extend the scheme.
Alongside this, the council has helped to upgrade more than 80 buses on the city’s scheduled bus routes, which means that all of the 220 buses on scheduled routes will be compliant with the new emission standards by the end of the summer.
The council is also working closely with the area’s first responders and emergency teams, who are keen to show leadership. Emergency and health service vehicles are exempt from charges in the zone for up to five years to help protect vital services, however Avon and Somerset Police, Avon Fire and Rescue Service and South Western Ambulance Service Foundation have all been working closely with the council, updating and reorganizing fleets so that – as far as possible – vehicles are compliant in the zone.