Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council have published final draft proposals for the UK’s first city centre Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ), to be introduced later this year.
The proposed ‘Red Zone’ in the city centre of Oxford marks the next step towards cleaner air. The council expects that the ZEZ Red Zone will improve air pollution levels in towns and villages across Oxfordshire because the buses, taxis and other vehicles that serve Oxford also serve towns and villages across the county.
In addition, a Green Zone is proposed for introduction in 2021/22, covering the rest of the city centre.
From January 2020, all Hackney Carriage Vehicles licensed in Oxford will be moving towards becoming zero emission by 2025, with phased emission standards.
In October 2019 the first rapid electric taxi charging points in Oxford were installed in East Oxford. The installation of the chargers is part of plans to install up to 19 electric vehicle points for taxis in order to support the trade in phasing out polluting vehicles and replace their vehicles with Ultra Low Emission taxis.
Both councils have now launched an informal consultation on a draft final scheme for the Red Zone, including the proposed charging and enforcement arrangements, which could begin in December 2020.
This follows a year of increasing focus locally, nationally, and globally about the harmful impact of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions from vehicles, and follows both the City Council and County Council recognising a climate emergency and making commitments to cut carbon emissions.
The new proposals consider the Red Zone, which covers a small area of the city centre and will start from December 2020 for all vehicles. They also propose the creation of a Green Zone covering the rest of the city centre in 2021/22, which would be accessed for free by zero emission vehicles and with discounted charges for vehicles which comply with the London Ultra Low Emission Zone standards.
The key points of the latest proposals are:
The introduction of a charging scheme in the Red Zone between 7am-7pm, with a £10 charge for non-compliant vehicles entering the zone.
Discounts for all blue badge holders entering the zone until December 2024.
Exemptions for businesses registered in the Red Zone until December 2024, followed by a discount until December 2030.
A 90% discount for residents living in the zone until December 2030.
Buses and Oxford licensed Hackney Carriages which drive within the planned Zero Emission have already agreed timelines for zero emissions fleets across Oxford and will not be subject to charges.
The informal consultation on the Red Zone is open Tuesday 7 January – Friday 31 January, with the councils looking for feedback on: the level the charges are set at, whether the discounts are appropriate, the suggested hours of operation for the charging scheme, what future phases of the Zero Emission Zone should include, and when they should be implemented.
The Red Zone will then go to formal consultation in March, and the draft charging order published, with both councils making a formal decision on implementation in the spring, which could mean the scheme coming into effect in December 2020.
The Oxford Zero Emission Zone is a similar type of scheme to that used in London to enforce emission requirements. Several other cities in Britain and other countries are looking at ways to improve air quality by restricting vehicle access in similar ways.
Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council said: “2020 will be a crunch year for our climate and all our futures. We face a climate emergency that threatens all of our futures. For the sake of everyone in Oxford, and especially our children’s lungs, we must clean up the lethal air we’re all breathing. Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone will come into force this year and help make 2020 the year we make a game-changing difference.
“With our strengthened Zero Emission Zone and the introduction of hundreds of supporting charging points, our medieval city is leading the electric vehicle revolution. Our two councils have taken a fresh look at the big idea of charging commuters to drive polluting vehicles in and out of the city centre. And we’re listening to Oxford’s Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change by speeding up our journey to a city-wide Zero Emission Zone.
“Local government isn’t prepared to delay action. Our two councils are working together to enhance lives here in Oxford and across the market towns and villages of Oxfordshire.”
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