As Cardiff resurrects congestion charging plans amid protests from car users, a leading environmental body has called for massive investment in public transport and electric charging points as well as greater encouragement to scrap older, non-classic cars.
Cardiff has returned to the congestion charge proposal and re-issued a discussion document with 18 scenarios, and awaits public consultation before deciding on which to follow.
If it does nothing, Welsh Government will impose a system to meet clean air requirements from the EU after environmentalists won a high court action compelling authorities to implement the low emission legislation.
But recent planning approvals by the city council means several hundred jobs will relocate to offices in the centre for HMRC and BBC, which were previously on the fringes of the capital. Slowing down traffic with 20mph zones and encroaching on roadspace with extended bus stops has exaggerated congestion.
Now, international certification agency Bureau Veritas has called for a greater understanding of consumer attitudes to low polluting vehicles in order to speed up the phasing out of diesel and petrol cars.
It comes as a major new report by MPs – the first delivered by a joint audit committee across the multiple areas of transport, environment and health – recommends that Britain introduce new, more ambitious legislation to tackle poor air quality after estimates show it contributes to 40,000 early deaths each year and costs the UK £20bn annually.
The MPs are also demanding a faster phase-out of petrol and diesel cars. Currently scheduled for 2040, the MPs believe the ban should be brought forward in line with India’s pledge that all new vehicles should be electric by 2030.
Dr Richard Maggs, Consulting Group Manager on Air Quality at Bureau Veritas, said, “The poor level of air quality in the UK, particularly in urban areas, is a massive concern to population health and wellbeing. To tackle the problem head on, the move away from diesel and petrol vehicles must be accelerated.
“However, to achieve this requires the active engagement between behavioural scientists and air quality experts in order to rapidly change the British public’s perception of alternatives to petrol and diesel vehicles. Added to this, a complete overhaul of public transport and associated infrastructure for adoption of electric vehicles (e.g. charging points and battery storage) should be prioritised to overcome the significant barriers to a quicker adoption of low polluting vehicles and private vehicle alternatives.
“At present, vehicle ownership is still largely driven by socio-economic factors related to household incomes and reflects our status in society. Unless scrappage schemes remove older more polluting vehicles, their continued use remains an attractive proposition for low income households.
“On top of this, with the choice of vehicle also determined by performance and access to charging points, there also needs to be adequate infrastructure in place first to support alternatively-fuelled options; be it electric, liquid nitrogen or emerging hydrogen models.
“This, of course, is just one area of concern; local transport networks and pricing remain inefficient and unless an overall authority has control and management of transport modes similar to the Transport for London model, passengers will continue to find it difficult to move around using multiple payments across buses, trains and trams.
“Crucially, while the choice for better air quality is an obvious one, the plan for delivery is inherently complex and requires a greater understanding of how best we can influence consumers to switch faster to low polluting transport such as electric cars in order to achieve the level of air quality we all deserve.”