Bristol is set to ban all diesel cars from its city centre in 2021, if the scheme gets government approval. Bristol City Council agreed on the ban, a first for a UK city.
Privately-owned diesel cars will be banned between 07.00 and 15.00 in areas including part of the M32, Redcliffe, Spike Island, Harbourside, part of hotwells and the old city.
A ban means a ban, too. If you’re not a taxi or the emergency services, passing into this central area will incur a fine, whatever the age of your diesel car.
The movement of vehicles within the central zone will be monitored using ANPR (automatic numberplate recognition system), similar to how the Lonon ULEZ works.
In addition, commercial vehicles will need to pay a fee for a wider Bristol clean air zone. Taxis and vans will be charged £9 while buses and HGVs will pay £100. The wider zone will allow private diesel vehicles in without charge.
Details on exemptions for other vehicles, as well as how much the fines will be, have yet to be decided.
Bristol’s NOx problem
Having twice missed government deadlines for cleaning up the city’s air, this is a drastic measure from Bristol’s council. At present, air pollution levels are way beyond legal levels. This plan, with controlled access to certain zones by diesel vehicles, should in theory see it become compliant by 2025.
While a long time coming, some are worried it’s still knee-jerk, with residents and commuters taking the brunt. Diesel drivers and businesses now have around 16 months to ditch the oil-burners, or face exhile, charges, or fines.
Some Bristol-centric businesses will be facing big upgrade costs, in order to be able to stay operational once the policy is in effect.
It’s a sign of things to come in cities across the UK, as similar schemes are being considered to lower NOx levels. Bristol is just one of 36 local authorities out of 43 where air toxicity reaches illegal levels.
Some European cities have already operated such bans when pollution levels get too high, such as Paris and Oslo.
SMMT: Blanket ban is unfair on modern diesels
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive has spoken out commending the intent to clean up Bristol’s air, but warns against the unfairness of a blanket ban.
“Industry wants to see all cities, including Bristol, meet their targets and continues to invest in ever more advanced technology to help improve our environment,” Hawes said.
“However, this proposed blanket ban, which goes against government’s guidelines, fails to distinguish between modern vehicles and decades-old technologies and will only cause confusion for drivers while also undermining efforts to boost air quality.
“Instead, we need a clear and consistent national approach to clean air zones that incentivises uptake of the latest, low emission vehicles, including new Euro 6 diesels, which are the cleanest ever produced, alongside improvements to traffic flow and investment in charging infrastructure.”