BBC News

Birmingham clean air charge: What you need to know

image captionSome drivers using part of the A38 in the city centre face charges under the proposals

Drivers of high-polluting cars are set to pay £8 to travel into the centre of Birmingham from 1 June 2021, after the city council announced the start date for the long-delayed Clean Air Zone.

The proposals, approved by government in March 2019, are to bring in fees for older vehicles driving within the city's ring road that release high levels of toxic emissions.

It is part of a radical transport plan which could see all private cars banned from driving through the city centre by 2031.

But how will it work and how will it affect you? The BBC looks at some of the key questions and answers.

Will it affect me?

Proposals put forward are a penalty for vehicles with high nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions, so there wouldn't be a congestion charge with a blanket tariff on everyone going into the zone.

Paying would only apply to non-compliant vehicles - diesels manufactured before 2015 and petrol cars made before 2006.

The Department for Transport has now launched an online vehicle checker which will allow drivers to see if they will be affected by the change.

How much will it cost and who is exempt?

The proposed charges for high-polluting vehicles are £8 for cars and £50 for buses and HGVs driving in central Birmingham.

However, there will be some exemptions. Charges will not be applied:

  • For one year for commercial vehicles registered within the zone, up to a maximum of two vehicles per company
  • For one year for commercial vehicles registered in Birmingham travelling into the zone with "an existing finance agreement beyond 2020"
  • For two years for private cars registered within the zone
  • For one year for people travelling into the zone for work, if they earn less than £30,000 a year
  • For one year for visitors to Birmingham Children's Hospital

There will be permanent exemptions for vans and minibuses registered to provide school and community transport and for vehicles with disabled tax class.

image copyrightGoogle
image captionThe A4540 Middleway ring road, pictured here at the Five Ways junction, is not included in the clean air zone, but all roads within it are

How do I pay the clean air charge?

Vehicles entering the area inside the ring road will be picked up by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras, so there won't be any barriers or toll booths.

For those who do incur charges, these will be payable online. And if you don't pay up, you could face a £120 fine under proposals.

However, people will not pay for vehicles below the emissions standard if they are parked within the zone all day but are not turned on.

image copyrightBirmingham City Council
image captionA map shows the proposed clean air zone in Birmingham

Where would it apply?

All roads inside the A4540 Middleway ring road would fall into the clean air zone, but the circular route itself is not included.

So, for example, that means drivers travelling on the M6 who leave at Spaghetti Junction would be charged if they go right through the city centre on the A38.

The council believes the ring road is a sensible boundary which is clear to motorists and the clean air zone covers most of the worst pollution hotspots in the city.

It is proposed the charge is in effect all day every day.

Will there be any support for those set to be penalised by the charge?

The council has secured £15m to help taxi drivers upgrade to newer, cleaner vehicles.

Go-slow protests have happened in Birmingham from people in the trade who argue the clean air zone is a threat to their livelihood.

Council transport and environment chief Waseem Zaffar said in March 2019 it would enable them "to continue providing their valuable service to the city".

image captionThere are proposed charges for high-polluting vehicles of £8 for cars and £50 for buses and HGVs

Why is the council doing this?

Air pollution is widely regarded as a public health crisis in Birmingham that contributes to 900 premature deaths a year in the city.

The Labour-run council has stated because of the ministerial direction it had received, it was "impossible" to introduce a zone without charges.

It faces a fine of up to £60m if it fails to implement the zone in time.

How many people is this likely to affect?

Out of the 200,000 vehicles that pass through the city centre every day, about 60% do not comply with the required emission standards, studies have suggested.

So what happens next?

The government had demanded the zone was implemented by January 2020, but it will now come into effect in June 2021.

It was delayed by issues with the government's vehicle-checking software and the economic impact of coronavirus.

Related Topics

More on this story

  • Birmingham cars could be banned from driving through city centre

  • The Birmingham high street that cut air pollution

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.