Coast Road may pay the price of Yorkshire clean air charges if Tyneside clean buses are switched to Leeds

March 1, 2018 3:41 PM
BusesLiberal Democrats councillors in Newcastle have expressed concern at suggestions that hybrid electric buses operated by Arriva on Coast Road services between Newcastle and North Tyneside look set to be switched to Leeds in order to comply with the West Yorkshire city's imminent introduction of clean air charges. Leeds is currently consulting on plans which could see a daily charge of £100 for high emission buses, coaches and HGVs that fail to meet Euro 6 clean air standards, together with a £12.50 charge for taxis.
It has been suggested that Arriva will seek to transfer hybrid buses currently serving its 306 and 308 routes using the Coast Road to Leeds in order to avoid the Yorkshire city's proposed charge. This would reduce the number of cleaner buses currently operating in Newcastle along a corridor that has been highlighted as being one of the city's air pollution blackspots. In return Newcastle is likely to receive second hand diesel buses. This would see progress towards clean buses in Newcastle going backwards under the current Labour council. Recent clean bus funding from DFT is only funding new 'scrubber' filters for older diesel buses rather than new clean vehicles.
Leeds is one of five cities required to implement road charging schemes to urgently reduced nitrogen dioxide levels in its urban area, along with Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham, and Southampton, and it is consulting on plans to introduce the charge in the area within the city's outer ring road and M621 from October 2018. Although Newcastle narrowly missed this requirement, it must produce its own plan to improve air quality in the city this month.
Greg StoneOpposition transport spokesperson Cllr Greg Stone, who represents the North Heaton ward on both sides of the Coast Road in Newcastle, is urging Newcastle City Council to take steps to require a changeover to low-emission buses in the city by 2025, and has expressed concern over the potential removal of the Coast Road hybrids.
He said :" We already know the Coast Road corridor has very high NOx levels, particularly between the Cradlewell and the Corner House, and this is a health risk to residents in my area. We believe there needs to be much greater use of low emissions buses by operators and the Opposition is proposing a transition period to take high-emission diesel bus and taxis off our roads by 2025. Leeds has been required by the Government to introduce a charge for high-emission buses, but it appears that Newcastle and North Tyneside residents will pay the price if existing low emissions buses are redeployed.
"Newcastle City Council will have to publish its own clean air plan by the end of March. We want to see that plan set a target date for transition away from high emissions diesel and support a switch to clean buses and taxis. We think that it is time to look at an HGV charge zone for the city centre within the Boulevard / Barrack Road / Central Motorway box and introduce a city centre freight consolidation scheme.
"A Liberal Democrats council would prioritise additional public transport such as low-emission Park and Ride, which the current Labour council has failed to consider. Increasing bus use should be a big part of the solution to air quality problems: We need to see more low-emission buses on the Coast Road, not fewer."