Bristol could become the UK city to ban diesel cars from entering the city centre in a dramatic bid to cut air pollution. The local authority approved plans to impose a clean air zone at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday night. It means privately owned diesel cars won’t be allowed in certain central areas between 7am and 3pm, every day of the week. The scheme, which needs government approval, is due to start in 2021. Commercial diesel vehicles such as buses and delivery trucks will be charged £9 to enter the exclusion zone, but this won’t be an option for ordinary drivers. Under the plans, even newer, cleaner diesels would be prohibited, despite the fact many are more environmentally-friendly than older petrol cars.
As well as banning diesels, the clean air plans include introducing a vehicle scrappage scheme to help drivers replace diesels with petrol or hybrid and electric cars.
Bristol has long suffered from poor air quality, particularly from high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2). It is under a legal obligation to reduce air pollution but has twice missed government deadlines for providing details of a clean air zone. Bristol mayor Marvis Rees said the proposed ‘Clean Air Zone’ would help the city meet its emissions targets by 2025 and ‘protect vulnerable residents’ from pollution. The ban will be enforced using a number plate recognition system, similar to the one used to police London’s congestion charge. Pete Simson, BBC Radio Bristol politics reporter, said: “It’s hard to overstate how significant a policy intervention this is.
“This is a first, no other UK city is introducing an outright diesel ban, and it will require the government to introduce new legislation.’ Although some local residents welcomed the idea, motoring groups have warned the plan could increase congestion outside the city centre and put unfair financial pressures on people who can’t afford to switch from diesel. Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, said: ‘Major routes into, out of, and even around the city would become out of bounds, with diesel vehicles forced onto other roads, which risks causing congestion problems where they don’t exist at the moment. ‘Many drivers are faced with having to use their car for journeys in and around the city simply because there is no affordable, reliable alternatives. This would become more difficult under these plans. ‘Then there are other practical considerations. Some drivers of diesel cars who are locked into finance packages may face a significant penalty to exit their contract early.
‘There will also be drivers of older vehicles who are faced with having to give up their vehicles and switch to something different – which could be extremely costly.’ Millions were encouraged to buy diesels by Tony Blair’s government because they are more fuel-efficient and emit less carbon dioxide than But scientists and governments around the world have since changed their tune as diesels emit more nitrogen oxides, which can harm health. The Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal in 2015 has also led to accusations that car-makers have been cheating tests and downplaying the damaging effects of toxic emissions.