A charging Clean Air Zone is “highly likely” to be necessary in Greater Manchester to achieve compliance with the EU’s nitrogen dioxide limit values in the shortest possible time, says the area’s combined authority.
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is leading the investigations. Its interim chief executive, Eamonn Boylan, told the Greater Manchester Combined Authority: “The work undertaken to date indicates that a package of measures that includes some form of charging CAZ is highly likely to be necessary to comply with Government guidance and legal rulings to reduce NO2 to within legal limit values in the ‘shortest possible time’ across Greater Manchester.”
Greater Manchester’s new draft transport delivery plan says the shortlisted options are a Class B, C or D CAZ. These cover a progressively wider range of vehicles – a Class D scheme would cover cars. Birmingham is pursuing a Class D scheme.
Environmental lawyers ClientEarth told LTT this week that Greater Manchester’s “unofficial preferred option is for a CAZ covering all ten boroughs, which would charge commercial vehicles, not private vehicles”.
The National Infrastructure Commission said earlier this month that the West Midlands and Greater Manchester combined authorities were “liaising over the design of their clean air zones and how they can work in a complementary fashion” (LTT 04 Jan).
In 2017 the Government directed seven of Greater Manchester’s ten districts to conduct feasibility studies to ensure NO2 concentrations are reduced to within EU limit values within the shortest possible time. The councils were: Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Salford, Stockport, Tameside and Trafford. An eighth, Oldham, was added in 2018.
Councils were required to submit an outline business case to the Government by 31 January. But Boylan said Greater Manchester was unable to meet this deadline.
“Given the requirement for any such plan to be agreed by each of Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities ... further time than that identified by Government is required.”
He said the work was being complicated by Highways England’s role as operator of the Strategic Road Network.
“The different approach that the Government has adopted for its highways body, namely Highways England is problematic,” said Boylan. “This is particularly the case for Greater Manchester, given the numerous junctions and extremely close relationship between traffic flows on urban parts of the motorway network, such as the M60, and on the local highway network.
“For example, it is unclear as yet the scale of the NO2 problem identified by Highways England on the local motorway network, and its effects over a wider geographical area.
“There is also a lack of clarity what measures Highways England may be considering and their timescales for implementation, and therefore the extent to which these may benefit or potentially exacerbate NO2 impacts on the local authority network.”
Highways England told LTT it was working with Greater Manchester to “develop measures that will bring benefits across the region”.
Boylan said a report on the outline business case would be presented to the combined authority and the ten councils in the spring. A non-statutory “public conversation” will follow.
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