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Gtr Manchester CAZ delayed, as Covid-19 impact assessed

Air Quality

Andrew Forster
12 June 2020
Gtr Manchester: 600 buses are too old to be retrofitted
Gtr Manchester: 600 buses are too old to be retrofitted


Implementation of a clean air zone (CAZ) across the Greater Manchester conurbation has been delayed until 2022 because of Covid-19. The councils are currently assessing how the virus may affect their clean air plan.  

Implementation of a conurbation-wide CAZ had been planned for summer 2021. A proposed consultation on the plan due to take place this summer has been put on hold because of the virus (in the last issue we incorrectly stated the project as a whole was on hold, which is incorrect – sincere apologies). 

Covid-19 has changed traffic volumes and pollution levels, raising questions about the relevance of the modelling underpinning the clean air plan. 

In a report to last week’s Greater Manchester Combined Authority meeting, councillor Andrew Western, the leader of Trafford Council and the Greater Manchester portfolio lead for a ‘green city’, said: “The Government’s joint air quality unit [JAQU, of DfT and Defra officials] confirmed on 1 May that authorities should continue to develop measures and packages to tackle the exceedances predicted from modelling to date, subject to further emissions factor toolkit analysis to be provided by JAQU shortly. 

“Furthermore, there should be no revised economic analysis undertaken without JAQU consent, on the basis that the outcomes of Covid-19 are not yet understood, and that, for now, authorities should proceed on the basis of their current proposals.” 

He added: “To understand the wider impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak the Greater Manchester clean air plan team will make an assessment of the possible impacts of Covid-19 to inform a technical briefing note for decision-makers. 

“This assessment will include: 

  • whether the assumptions underpinning the GM clean air plan are still valid; 
  • whether Greater Manchester will remain in exceedance of legal nitrogen dioxide limits under the proposals as they currently stand; 
  • the measures proposed in the package for consultation, and whether the proposed support package will be sufficient.”

The councils had originally proposed the scheme apply to heavy goods vehicles, buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles from summer 2021, (making it a Class B CAZ), with vans added in 2023 (making it then a Class C scheme). The councils said this would give time for the second hand market in compliant vans to develop.

The Government at first rejected this suggestion, saying vans should be part of the scheme from 2021. 

In March, however, the Government told the councils that it would accept the delay to vans until 2023. 

Daily charges for non-compliant vehicles will be set at £7.50 for taxis, private hire vehicles and light goods vehicles, and £100 for HGVs, buses and coaches.

The councils originally asked the Government for a £59m clean freight fund to help upgrade light and heavy goods vehicles, minibuses and coaches. Based on further discussions with the affected sectors, the councils   increased their request to £98m, with funding targeted at small local businesses, sole traders and the voluntary sector. 

The councils also asked the Government for a further circa £10m hardship fund to support the most vulnerable individuals, companies and organisations for whom the standard grants on offer will not be enough.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow told the councils in March that the Government would provide an initial £41m support package, of which £15.4m is for bus retrofit, £10.7m for private hire vehicles, £8m for HGVs, £4.6m for coaches, and £2.1m for minibuses. This is on top of the £36m awarded to the councils last year to help set up the CAZ.

Pow said the Government expected implementation of the CAZ in 2021 and for compliance with the EU nitrogen dioxide limit values to be reached by 2024. 

Councillor Western wrote back to Pow in April. Reflecting on the economic damage being caused by Covid-19, he said: “The groups most affected by our clean air plan may need even further assistance than we had anticipated at the time of our previous submission to Government.” 

He asked the Government to ensure a clear funding position for hackney carriages and light goods vehicles. A recent assessment by the councils suggested  that as many as 90,000 vans could be non-compliant with the CAZ if it came into operation at the end of 2021 (LTT 07 Feb).  

Western said the £15.4m buses funding would “provide the basis for developing a model to retrofit the circa 1,000 buses in Greater Manchester that are capable of being converted”. 

“However, there remain a further 600+ vehicles for which there are no accredited retrofit options.” The Prime Minister’s announcement of a £5bn five-year fund for buses and cycling, that would include funding of 4,000 zero emission buses, is seen as a possible funding route (LTT 21 Feb).    

The councils had planned to consult on minimum licensing standards for the taxi and private hire vehicle trade in parallel with the clean air plan consultation. 

Western said councils were “very aware that the impact of pandemic management policies are being felt very strongly within the taxi trade”. 

The licensing proposals will feature a basic and common minimum in key areas, while allowing districts to exceed these minima if they want. 

The proposed vehicle emission standards include: diesel – Euro 6 and above; petrol – Euro 4 and above; vehicle ages (under five years at first licensing, none older than ten years); vehicle colour (black for Taxi/Hackney, white for PHV); vehicle livery (common GM design with council logo incorporated); accessibility (all taxis to be wheelchair accessible). 

From 2025 all newly licensed vehicles will need to be zero emission capable (ZEC). From 2028 all vehicles will need to be ZEC. 

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