Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A uniform pollution charge won't work

I attended Gateshead Council Cabinet his morning. There was only one item on the agenda: proposals for a clean air zone in central Gateshead and Newcastle. One of the options is to charge all vehicles to cross the Redheugh, Swing and Tyne Bridges, other than a few ultra low emission cars. All other cars will be charged the same amount, regardless of their emissions. I am not convinced this will work.

Pollution charges are all about getting people to change their activities from dirty to clean. A pollution charge should, ultimately, collect no revenue as people shift to cleaner activities. This will simply not happen on the bridges over the Tyne. Everyone who has invested in low emission vehicles will pay the same as people driving the most polluting cars. There is no incentive to go green.

Indeed, the plans could be counter-productive. To avoid the charge, people are likely to drive west to get to the Scotswood or Blaydon Bridges, causing further congestion there and leading to longer journeys and therefore more pollution.

I put these points to cabinet and, interestingly, my comments were supported by Cllr Mick McNestry. Nevertheless, it looks like this flawed, counter-productive scheme will go ahead.

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