The cameras and back office equipment for Greater Manchester’s proposed clean air zone (CAZ) must be capable of being used for other unspecified purposes, Transport for Greater Manchester has said. It raises the possibility of some form of road charging continuing after the area’s air becomes compliant with legal limits.
The Government has instructed the ten Greater Manchester districts to implement a CAZ to bring nitrogen dioxide concentrations down to below EU limit values. The zone will cover the whole conurbation but will not apply to Highways England’s Strategic Road Network.
In March the Government approved the councils’ plan for the CAZ to begin as a Class B scheme in 2021 covering buses, coaches, heavy goods vehicles, taxis and private hire vehicles. It will then become a Class C scheme in 2023 with the addition of vans. The delay to van coverage is intended to give time for the second hand market in compliant vans to mature.
Covid-19 has slowed preparatory work for the CAZ. A consultation on the overall clean air plan was postponed this spring and will now be held “as soon as is feasible”. The councils say the CAZ will not be implemented until 2022.
Transport for Greater Manchester has just issued a tender notice for the CAZ service agreement, which says the zone is likely to remain in operation until “at least the second half of 2026”.
“If it is demonstrated by the second half of 2026 that two consecutive years’ of compliance with the legal limit value [of 40 µg/m3] for NO2 [have been achieved], and there is confidence that compliance will continue to be maintained, then the Greater Manchester authorities can together seek the agreement of the secretary of state to suspend the charging scheme order and commence the decommissioning of the GM CAZ,” it explains.
But the tender notice indicates that the equipment could be used for other purposes. “The Greater Manchester CAZ service agreement will enable TfGM to use the field equipment and some or all of the related services as a source of supply for other non-Greater Manchester CAZ related automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) requirements.”
All the equipment must be “future proofed” with capability to “enhance and/or expand the use of the field equipment and services; and/or re-purpose the operation of the field equipment and services to support other uses in addition to the Greater Manchester CAZ scheme”.
Asked about this aspect of the tender notice, a TfGM spokeswoman told LTT: “The estimated life of the ANPR cameras will be around ten years and we estimate that we will only use them for less than six years on the clean air zone. At the point of decommissioning of the CAZ, we want to ensure that we have the ability to reuse the cameras and the contract for other purposes, should we need to.
“However there are no current plans, or suggestions, to use the contract or the ANPR cameras for anything other than the CAZ – and the use of the language in the tender notice is to protect our rights should we eventually need to.”
One possible use of the cameras and back office facilities could be to support the conurbation’s carbon dioxide reduction target. Earlier this year the Greater Manchester Combined Authority said transport emissions in the conurbation must be cut from 2.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent to 1.35 million tonnes in 2025 as part of the area’s pathway to carbon neutrality in 2038 (LTT 07 Feb).
Mayor Andy Burnham said modelling suggested this would require 51 per cent of all vehicles to be zero emission and a 25 per cent reduction in remaining car journeys.
The CAZ service agreement covers:
The contract will commence on 29 June 2021. Invitations to tender will be issued at the end of September.
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