GLASGOW has come under fire for dropping plans to look into congestion charging in the city to help tackle a "pollution crisis".

But councillors have supported a move to have older cars banned from the city centre in four years time by introducing a low emissions zone extended to all vehicles by December 2022.

Council documents had confirmed officials were exploring road user charging in Glasgow and some councillors had supported an implementation of a scheme, following consultation, by December 31, 2020.

But a Conservatives'  amendment before the City Administration Committee to take out the congestion charge policy entirely from the planned low emissions zone was backed by the SNP and passed.

The SNP wants a debate on congestion charging separate from the low emissions zone planning.

A letter to Glasgow City Council signed by nine health and environmental campaign groups and over 350 members of the public says that "road user charging" should be introduced as part of the low emissions scheme. And it wanted all vehicles to be compliant by April 2021.

Joseph Carter, head of devolved nations at the British Lung Foundation, said: “Whilst we welcome the general basis of Glasgow City Council’s plans for a low emission zone, the decision to drop exploration of congestion charging is hugely disappointing.

"The council’s plans need to go further if they are to make a meaningful reduction in air pollution quickly and today’s decision does not go far enough to bring down the level of air pollution in the city.

HeraldScotland:

“Over the next few years, we need to see clear progress in reducing toxic pollutants, so that the people of Glasgow can breathe easier. We want to see greater resolve in reducing the illegal levels of air pollution in the city and we urge the council to start cleaning up the most polluting vehicles now.”  

Friends of the Earth Scotland said it remained a "no ambition zone" and that the decision means the "toxic, illegal levels of air pollution in Glasgow will carry on poisoning people’s lungs for at least four and a half more years". 

Air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, Emilia Hanna said: "The council has shown cowardice around tackling this silent killer which causes 300 premature deaths in the city each year.

HeraldScotland:

“The SNP have voted with Conservatives against their own revised plan which would have considered congestion charging for the city. Congestion charging could have taken low emission zones to the next level and raised vital resources to plough back into cleaner transport in Glasgow.

An low emission zone will apply to 20 per cent of buses from the end of 2018, rising to 100% by December 2022. Cars will need to meet the strict standards from the end of 2022.

After that date petrol cars made before 2005 and diesels built before September 2014 will not be allowed in.

The council said it was "forging a path towards cleaner air".

The Scottish government vowed to deliver low emission zones in four Scottish cities by 2020.

Conservative Group Leader, David Meikle said:  “We support the introduction of a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in Glasgow city centre on a phased basis by December 2022. It is important that we tackle poor air quality but we have to do it in a way that takes into account the views of businesses and residents.

“Proposals from Labour and the Greens to introduce a congestion charge would hit Glasgow’s businesses hard, so we moved an amendment to remove reference to a congestion charge in the report.

HeraldScotland: Many people chose not to drive today, making for a quiet start to congestion charging

"I am pleased our amendment was agreed and supported by the SNP. We are now focused on holding the administration to account on the delivery of the LEZ to ensure we clean up Glasgow’s air.”

Last October, World Health Organisation testing found that Glasgow was one of the most polluted areas in the UK, with poorer air quality than London.

The 2022 vehicle ban relates to the type of engine fitted in cars.
Petrol cars need Euro 4 engines, which were introduced in January 2005, to be allowed in the zone. Diesel cars need Euro 6 engines, introduced in September 2014.

Drivers entering the zone in cars made before these dates will be fined, with automatic number plate recognition systems being set up around the city centre.

The level of the fine has not yet been set, a spokesman for the council said.

It has been 15 years since London’s congestion charge was introduced by the city’s first mayor, Ken Livingstone who hoped it would reduce congestion, radically improve bus services, make journey times more consistent for drivers and increase efficiency for those distributing goods and services throughout the city.

Key measures show it has been a success. In 2006, Transport for London (TfL) reported that the charge reduced traffic by 15 per cent and congestion – that is, the extra time a trip would take because of traffic – by 30 per cent.

The charge covers a 21 km² area in London. Those that enter the zone between 7am and 6pm on a weekday pay a flat daily rate which has risen gradually from £5 in 2003 to £11.50 now.