The North East Bus Operators’ Association has announced that it opposes the idea of a clean air zone in Newcastle, which will lead to increased bus fares and some routes being cancelled. Instead, it is backing alternative plans for tolls on three bridges across the Tyne.
This means that buses would not have to pay a fee, which under the government plans would be £50 a day to enter the zone, but must meet emission standards or face being banned.
“We have to do more to improve the environment in our region and that’s why we’re keen to get behind the more practical and balanced option of the LEZ and bridge tolls, where we know the bus can be a force for good and our regional economy can continue to thrive,” said Martijn Gilbert, chair of the bus association.
The Councils Local Democracy Reporting Service announced that they are to impose charges on drivers of the most polluting vehicles after being ordered by the government to slash dangerous emissions levels by 2021.
The plan is to tackle emissions in three Tyneside areas – the Central Motorway between the Tyne Bridge and the Swan House roundabout, stretches of the A1 past Swalwell, Whickham and Blaydon, and the Coast Road near Wallsend.
There are two options open to public consultation:
- A Clear Air Zone (CAZ) in which cars and taxis that fail to meet minimum emissions standards would pay £12.50 a day to enter, with the most polluting buses and lorries paying £50 a day.
- Tolls of up to £3.40 on the three major road bridges across the River Tyne, known as the Low Emission Zone (LEZ). Buses and HGVs which meet the council’s emission standards will pay nothing- if they do not, they will be banned from the city centre.
Newcastle City Council said it could not comment on the bus chiefs’ warnings until after the consultation ends on Friday.