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What Is The Difference Between A Congestion Charge And A Clean Air Charge?

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To understand why we need congestion charges and clean air zones, we have to consider the following statistics. There are currently around 37.5 million vehicles registered for use on the roads in the UK. Of these, only 0.5% are classified as ultra-low emissions. This is contributing to a crisis in our air pollution levels.

In 2019, the average CO2 emissions of cars sold in the UK increased for the third year in a row. And to understand why this is important, consider that around 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year are the result of prolonged exposure to air pollution.

Congestion charges and Clean Air Zones are two initiatives which aim to reduce air pollution and car use in the most built-up areas. But despite having similar aims, these are not the same thing. Both are additional charges for using a vehicle, but they have quite different end goals.

Congestion charging aims to help reduce the number of cars that enter an area, while Clean Air Zones aim to improve air quality by discouraging high emission vehicles from entering the zone. While a clean air zone might have an impact on congestion, this will only be a short-term impact as more vehicles are upgraded or retrofitted with emissions control technology.

Where are the Congestion Charges used?

Congestion Zones are found across London. They are marked with a white ‘c’ in a red circle on the roads and with road signs. To check if an area is in a congestion zone, you can use this postcode checker. Vehicles entering a congestion zone between 07:00-18:00, Monday to Friday will be charged £11.50.

To further deter drivers, the London congestion zone is also an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone. This means that if your vehicle does not meet the required emissions guidelines, you will also have to pay the ULEZ charge of £12.50 for vehicles up to 3.5t. While the Congestion zone only covers peak travel times, the ULEZ charge is applicable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So a drive to the centre of London at peak times on a Wednesday could set you back £14.

Where are the Clean Air Zones?

The Clean Air Zones scheme is set to roll out in early 2021. The first cities to trial the zoning will be Birmingham, Leeds and Bath. Vehicles which enter this zone will be picked up by automatic number plate recognition cameras and charged a flat fee which will be set by the local council. In Birmingham, this will be £8 per day, and in Leeds, non-compliant vehicles will pay £12.50 per day.

Cities Operating a ULEZ Zone

In addition to London, several other cities in the UK are implementing or planning to implement ULEZ zones to combat air pollution. These cities include:

  • Bath
  • Birmingham
  • Bradford
  • Bristol
  • Newcastle & Gateshead
  • Portsmouth
  • Sheffield

How can I future proof my business against these charges?

Even if you don’t currently operate in an area which uses congestion charging or Clean Air Zoning, these schemes are rapidly gaining momentum. This map shows where schemes are expected to roll out in the future.

To truly future-proof your business, making the switch to low emission electric vehicles is essential. This will not only cut your operating costs if you work in an area where a low emissions scheme is planned, but you will also experience long term savings in reduced running costs. Electric vehicles are reliable, cost-effective and great for the environment. To find out how electric vehicles could transform your business, get in touch with our team today.

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