Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) finally went live on Monday, but with a two-week ‘soft launch period’ where no charges will be levied.
The CAZ was originally scheduled to go live last year, but was postponed in response to the impact of Covid-19.
It will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year within the A4540 Middleway (but not the Middleway itself) applying a daily fee to vehicles that do not meet the emission standards for the zone.
Birmingham City Council said it will be used to encourage the drivers of the most polluting vehicles to upgrade or replace their vehicle and that people are being encouraged to think about walking, cycling or using public transport more – especially for shorter journeys.
Under the ‘soft launch’ of the scheme the council will not require drivers to pay the daily fee until midnight on 13 June and will not pursue enforcement. The council said it is providing ‘a little extra time to get ready, review the support available and to consider the alternatives’.
From 14 June owners of non-compliant vehicles will be required to pay the daily fee, unless a valid exemption is in place, or be issued with a penalty charge notice. Cars, taxis and LGVs will be charged £8 a day and coaches, buses and HGVs will be charged £50 per day.
Waseem Zaffar MBE (pictured), cabinet member for transport and environment, said: ‘This is a bold move that will help to address some significant health inequalities in our city. This is also an important step in encouraging people to re-think how we all move around the city.
‘I'm confident that this initiative will save lives, and provide a cleaner, greener, safer space for our communities in a part of our city that has a problem with poor air quality.’
He added: ‘Whilst we have agreed on a two-week soft launch period where people won't have to pay, I would encourage everyone to use this time to check their vehicles, familiarise themselves with the charging process and check out the support that is still available through the Brum Breathes website.’
The AA noted that while a CAZ was recently introduced in Bath, it will not charge the owners of private vehicles.
AA president Edmund King said: ‘Poor air quality is a threat that the majority of drivers agree needs to be addressed and reduced; in due course electric vehicles will largely eradicate those emissions.
‘However, the car CAZs in Bristol and Birmingham and the extended ULEZ in London are very blunt tools that create a tax burden for low-income families and workers.’
This article was first published on Highways magazine.