Petrol and diesel vehicles are to be banned from a city centre in what is believed to be the world’s first Zero Emissions Zone.
The new zone in Oxford City Centre will see all petrol and diesel taxis, cars and buses excluded from six central streets from 2020.
The area will then be expanded in 2025 and 2030 to encompass the entire city centre, and finally in 2035 HGVs will be banned from the same zone – making it what is thought to be the world’s first Zero Emissions Zone.
Experts say the scheme is set to cut levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2) down to near-background levels, with as much as a 74 per cent reduction in one street.
Oxford City Council environment chief John Tanner said the move is ‘urgently needed’.
However, it will also cost bus operators, taxi firms, haulage companies and councils an estimated £14m.
Oxford Bus Company, Stagecoach, all taxi firms, other businesses, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council will have to spend an estimated £7m replacing petrol and diesel vehicles with electric or hybrid.
Even the councils’ bin lorries and gritting vehicles will need to be changed.
The two councils will then need to spend a further £7m on administration and a new CCTV system with automatic number plate recognition to enforce the ban.
Anyone driving a non-electric vehicle in the zone will most likely receive an automatic fine similar to the bus gate fine of £60.
As the zones are being gradually expanded, the councils have said the majority of the cost will be back-loaded to the second half of the next 18 years, giving time to budget.
However the cost on small businesses and some residents is still set to be significant.
Black cab driver Sajad Khan welcomed the ‘positive strategy’ but warned that he and his fellow drivers would have to make a ‘huge investment’ in new cars.
Mr Khan, who is secretary for the the City of Oxford Licensed Taxicab Association (COLTA), said: “We would be required to possibly make huge investment in the only suitable ‘zero emissions capable’ vehicle in production – in the region of £60,000.
“It is necessary that both city and county councils realise this is a huge step for each black cab driver within the trade of Oxford.”
He said it was important for the two councils to ‘support’ his industry and make sure no driver was disadvantaged ‘in any way’, warning: “There may well be a case to rethink the target date for the inception of a Zero Emissions Zone (ZEZ).”
Bus companies in the city said they welcomed the ambition, but they would look to the city council for ‘support’ in upgrading their fleets at great cost.
Stagecoach Oxfordshire managing director Martin Sutton said: “There is still some way to go before zero-emission technology for buses is fully developed and we look forward to working with both city and county councils to explore what can be achieved and in what timescales.”
Oxford Bus Company MD Phil Southall added: “We will work with the council to identify the possible solutions for Oxford and the time frame in which they might be able to be deployed.”
The city council said the zone would ‘need to be supported with further funding’ from government, with bids expected in due course.
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