Birmingham clean air zone launches with 100,000 drivers affected

Motoring organisations warn many drivers of non-compliant vehicles in Birmingham won’t be able to afford to upgrade to a newer, cleaner model


Birmingham’s clean air zone scheme is now in operation, with drivers of pre-Euro 4 petrol and pre-Euro 6 diesel cars being charged £8 per day to drive within the bounds of the A4540 Middleway Ring Road.

The latest Department for Transport figures show there are 408,400 registered cars in Birmingham, of which 93,932 are non-compliant with the new clean air zone. Further research by councils found that around 23 per cent of cars travelling into the zone in 2020 would be liable to pay the £8 charge.

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The zone includes some of Birmingham’s most economically deprived neighbourhoods, with a public consultation showing that 44 per cent of those living within it would be charged to drive their main car.

Data from an AA Populus survey shows that 37 per cent of non-compliant car owners in London – which is expanding its ultra-low emission zone in October – and Birmingham wouldn’t be able to afford to upgrade their vehicle, while a further 11 per cent could, but would face severe financial difficulties as a result.

Birmingham has a higher proportion of drivers unable to afford the upgrade. Local demographics especially affected include young people and low-skilled workers.

Edmund King, president of the AA, described low emission zones as “very blunt tools that create a tax burden for low-income families and workers”.

He added: “These drivers are least able to afford to replace the vehicles they depend on for work, often night shifts, and sometimes emergencies such as going to hospital or health care centres. They are also the ones least able to pay the fines.”

The AA has proposed various alternatives and additions to clean air zones. These include a “rapid and massive expansion” of park and ride facilities, a first-time warning instead of a fine for those who accidentally drive a non-compliant car into the zone, and the removal of VAT on new electric vehicle sales.

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