Massive cop-out on local air quality action risks charges on motorists.

January 8, 2019 4:15 PM

Bus lane cameras Neville StreetThe statement by the three local councils (reproduced in full below) is a massive political cop-out and an abject failure of political leadership on the issue of the dangers of the air quality on our Tyneside streets.

Cllr Greg Stone, who speaks on transport and air quality issues for the Liberal Democrats, said "Other cities are dealing with the same challenges and the likes of Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, and Birmingham are consulting on their clean air charging proposals for polluting diesel emissions, not making excuses. We recognise that the A1 Western Bypass needs a national Highways Agency approach, but Newcastle, Gateshead, and North Tyneside had the opportunity to set out by the end of last year how they proposed to reduce emissions on the local network without a clean air charging scheme and have failed to do so.

"The Liberal Democrats believe they could and should be pursuing practical interventions such as expanding park and ride provision from the A1 and A19 corridors, banning HGVs from Newcastle city centre, and setting a transition timetable for switching to low emission buses and taxis. Similar measures elsewhere have achieved significant reductions in NOx (nitogen dioxide) emissions on major bus routes, which we know from recently published data have the most air pollution.

"Nobody wants a tax for the sake of it, but the direction of travel is clear: Poor air quality is affecting public health. We need action to tackle poisonous gas and particle emissions from vehicles, and we need to discourage diesel emissions which massively outweigh those from cleaner fuels. The councils have no coherent plan for tackling this issue and their inadequate response runs a very real risk that the Government will now impose a charging regime on Tyneside. On the figures Newcastle Council has calculated, this would have to be at least £12.50 a day for cars and taxis, and could reach a long way from the City centre. We can only presume that this is a cynical decision on their part to ensure that the Conservative government is seen as forcing the issue, rather than taking a lead as metro mayors elsewhere such as Andy Burnham in Manchester are doing.

"Our North of Tyne mayoral candidate John Appleby is pledging to lead a mayoral commission to address air quality and support greater efforts to promote sustainable transport and public transport across the conurbation."

Statement made by Newcastle City Council on 8 January 2019 - Further analysis of air quality options needed

Work to develop measures to improve air quality in the Tyneside area is continuing following the submission of an initial report to government.

Councils in Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside have been looking at a range of options for tackling roadside pollution, in line with a legal directive from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The directive stated that councils had to prepare a plan to tackle high levels of nitrogen dioxide on certain roads.

It also made clear that any measures had to be compared against putting in place a charging clean air zone and that any alternative proposals had to be at least as quick in addressing the problem of pollution as those charges would be.

Councils were required to identify measures that will bring air quality levels to within legal limits in the shortest possible time and to submit their draft proposals by the end of 2018.

The draft outline business case submitted by the Tyneside authorities sets out a series of the charging options that have been tested to evaluate and predict the likely impact they would have on traffic movements and on levels of pollution.

The authorities have consistently focused on whether the proposals would meet four key criteria:

  • That the measures were deliverable on time and would impact positively on air quality;
  • That the proposals would improve public health;
  • That they would enable future economic growth and sustain jobs; and
  • That they would not detrimentally impact on vulnerable populations in the area.

The options under consideration, which have been discussed with targeted stakeholders, include both non-charging and charging measures but no decisions have been made in relation to a final proposed option that would be put to the public in a consultation.

The transport and air quality modelling work suggest that none of the potential measures tested, even those that charged all vehicles with engines that do not meet government's criteria, would result in compliance with the air quality legal standards by 2021.

They also suggest that some of the charging measures, particularly those that included private vehicles, would result in traffic being moved onto other routes, away from the charging zone, including some residential areas. (Please see notes below for further details on the results of options testing.)

Further work and analysis will now be carried out to help identify the package of measures that will be taken forward to public consultation.

Cllr Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality at Newcastle City Council, said: "We know the city has issues with air quality caused by traffic and that some of the options we have had to consider could have a big impact on residents and businesses in our area.

"It is a particular concern that one impact of the measures could be to increase traffic, and related air pollution, in residential areas rather than keeping traffic on roads like the Central Motorway. That is something that is just plain wrong and shouldn't be allowed to happen."

Cllr Carl Johnson, cabinet member for environment and transport at North Tyneside Council said: "The scope of the legal directive we have been issued is limited in that it requires us to address pollution on specific roads - but just doing this is not enough.

"We have been clear that any measures we introduce must also meet our priorities to improve public health, support business and growth and avoid a detrimental impact, both in terms of health and economic wellbeing, on the most vulnerable in our communities."

Cllr John McElroy, cabinet member for environment and transport at Gateshead Council, said: "We should be acting at a national level, by looking at things like scrappage schemes. Instead we are being asked to take this significant decision in such a short timescale with a limited opportunity to develop a full understanding of the options and their impact.

"We are expected to use modelling which even the Government itself agrees has accuracy issues. We need time to develop a proper plan, based on accurate evidence, that can be implemented over a number of years and which has public support across our areas."

Councils will continue to carry out work to look at the impact of the proposed measures, including on the local economy, before agreeing what option they will consult on.

Notes taken from the draft outline business case setting out the results of options testing.

A number of different options were tested in our transport and/or air quality models. These included:

  • Do Minimum - only committed investment and schemes;
  • Charging Clean Air Zone Class B 'Outer' - a Class B charge in an area between the A1 & A19. This was tested only in the transport model and it was quickly concluded that the level of traffic that stopped using the city centre routes was so small that it would not deliver compliance.
  • Charging Clean Air Zone Class B 'Inner' - a Class B charge focused on Newcastle & Gateshead Town / City Centres stretching onto the A1058 Coast Road;
  • Charging Clean Air Zone Class C 'Inner' - Class C charge focused on Newcastle & Gateshead Town / City Centres stretching onto the A1058 Coast Road; and
  • Charging Clean Air Zone Class D 'Inner' - Class D charge focused on Newcastle & Gateshead Town / City Centres stretching onto the A1058 Coast Road.

Standard

New car registrations from

Euro 1

31 December 1992

Euro 2

01 January 1997

Euro 3

01 January 2001

Euro 4

01 January 2006

Euro 5

01 January 2011

Euro 6

01 September 2015

Our modelling shows that on our local roads, with only our committed investment (Do Minimum) the Central Motorway East, approach to the Coast Road, approach to Tyne Bridge and roads approaching Central Station would be above the legal limit in 2021.

Our modelling shows that on our local roads, with a CAZ B (Buses, Coaches, Taxis and HGVs): the Central Motorway East, approach to Tyne Bridge and roads approaching Central Station would be above the legal limit in 2021.

Our modelling shows that on our local roads, with a CAZ C (Buses, Coaches, Taxis, HGVs and LGVs): the Central Motorway East, approach to Tyne Bridge and roads approaching Central Station would be above the legal limit in 2021.

Our modelling shows that on our local roads, with a CAZ D (Buses, Coaches, Taxis, HGVs, LGVs and private cars): the Central Motorway East and roads approaching Central Station (A186) would remain above the legal limit in 2021. Our transport modelling also indicates very significant re-routing onto (particularly) the A1 and A19 as well as some local roads.

In all of the modelled scenarios, sections of the A1 Western Bypass remain above the legal limits.

Further work is required in January 2019 to analyse these findings, undertake an Integrated Impact Assessment, and discuss the best way forward with government and local stakeholders before deciding on an option to be consulted on.

Speaking in support of Cllr Stone's motion to Newcastle City Council, Cllr Wendy Taylor emphasised many of the transport and highways issues that are causing concern to local residents.
"The health effects of poor air quality are becoming clearer, yet little progress seems to have been made since 2011. The 2010 air quality action plan aimed to reduce unnecessary vehicle movements in the inner transport core of the City Centre; to bring in a traffic management scheme in Gosforth to reduce transport related emissions; to reduce and manage congestion; to reduce diesel vehicle emissions and with bus operators in the region to introduce new, cleaner, less polluting buses into the city.
And, in conjunction with the Local Transport Plan partners, to promote cleaner more sustainable transport options to commuters via the Be Air Aware campaign. However if anything air quality has got worse.
Money has been wasted on complex and unrealistic highways schemes such as at the Blue House roundabout and Haddrick's Mill, which have then had to be scrapped due to public outrage and we're still waiting for details of the new schemes.
The state of Newcastle's roads and pavements is a disgrace and is a danger to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers and the number of people killed or seriously injured in Newcastle is rising and above National averages.
Another area where I think the Labour run Council has missed an opportunity to improve air quality and reduce congestion is freight consolidation. A pilot scheme was brought in by the Lib Dem administration with the aim of using small electric vehicles to bring goods to City Centre shops, rather than large lorries. The idea was that lorries would drop off goods at a holding centre, provided by YHN at Newburn and that the smaller vehicles would then bring the stock to shops when needed. But when Labour took control in2011, instead of working with businesses in the City to encourage use of this facility, the scheme was dropped. Some incentives may be needed to re-introduce the scheme, but it could make a big difference.
Cllr Stone's motion mentions many other areas where improvements are urgently needed- on parking, on park and Ride and on public transport and I urge Cabinet to provide the information and action plans requested. "