What are clean air zones?
Clean air zones attempt to reduce pollution by discouraging high emission vehicles from entering busy areas within a city, like the city centre. Cities implementing the zones usually charge taxi vehicles at different rates to enter.
The UK has been above legal limits of air pollutants set by the EU for a while and legal action has pushed the government to take immediate steps towards reducing air pollution in the country. The government directed councils across the country to investigate pollution reductions, specifically clean air zones, as an immediate remedy.
What do the fees look like?
London already had a non-charging zone, but in April began charging vehicles (including private vehicles, taxis and buses) to enter the capital’s Ultra Low Emission Zone. The government also approved plans for Leeds and Birmingham starting 2020. Other cities including Bristol and across the UK are looking into this solution as a possible way to lower air pollutant levels, but the plans have not been made official.
The rates for entering a zone vary depending on the city and the vehicle. In some cities, private vehicles may be charged to enter. Taxis usually pay the same or more than private vehicles, with rates around £5 to £15. Cities charge buses, coaches and heavy good vehicles often up to £100.
According to government guidelines, the money made from these fees is to be invested in transportation schemes.
How will this affect taxis?
For most cities, newer, lower-emission vehicles will not be charged. The government hopes the incentives will encourage bus, taxi, and other transportation companies to invest in environmentally-friendly vehicles. Some local governments have proposed funds to offset initial costs for companies reliant on transportation in these zones.
The investment of replacing taxi fleets with greener cars creates a large initial price that would ideally be offset in the future by lower day-to-day costs. With government assistance, taxi companies may see this as a possible opportunity to update their fleet.
However, facing this investment alone may be too difficult for a taxi company, especially smaller fleets. The increased costs may be pushed on to the consumer by increasing taxi rates overall or by charging passengers wishing to travel inside the zone an additional fee.
City councils considering this solution are still looking into the costs and benefits of such a policy, but taxi companies will keep an eye on coming changes.