Sheffield city centre congestion charge set for buses, taxis, vans and lorries

Sheffield City Council are planning a congestion charge of up to £50 a day to drive in the city centre, which will affect buses, taxis, vans, coaches and lorries.

The council say the ‘Clean Air Zone’ will help tackle pollution and ‘save lives’.

But it will also mean drivers of high-polluting vehicles will have to either raise fees or absorb the high charges, which some have already said is not possible without extra funding.

The plans will be considered by the council’s cabinet on November 27 and residents, businesses, taxi drivers and bus companies are set to be consulted from early 2019.

Councillor Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and development, said he hopes the charge will push people to choose more environmentally friendly vehicles.

He said: “Air pollution is a major health problem and we know that people across the country including our children are breathing air that is not safe.

“The government is not taking this issue seriously at all. They have completely failed to give local councils the tools and resources we need, whilst forcing us to take the difficult decisions that are now needed because of their inaction.

“We have no desire to charge people but this issue is so serious that we have to take these actions to protect local people and save lives in Sheffield. If we want to make our air safer  for people in Sheffield, we have to take these actions.

“Our intention is to remove the most polluting vehicles from our road network by encouraging drivers to upgrade to cleaner vehicles rather than pay the charge. We need funding from government to provide support, advice and finance to encourage people to upgrade their vehicles if required.

“My vision is for air that is clean and safe for every single person in Sheffield. Achieving this is clearly a major piece of work. But the council can’t do it alone.  As a city, we need to commit to lasting changes to protect our city’s vulnerable residents, particularly our children and older people, who are most at risk. Standing by whilst people become poorly and die is simply not an option.”

The council say they will need £40 million from the government to put the charge in place including cameras and signs.

It comes under the council’s Clean Air Strategy, which launched in 2017, to improve the quality of the air in the city.

According to NHS studies, toxic air contributes to around 500 deaths a year, and an estimated 36,000 across the UK.

All buses, coaches and HGV’s will have to pay £50 a day to use the inner ring road, £12.50 a day for taxis and private hire vehicles and £10 a day for vans and LGVs.

Private cars are not included in the plans.

But coun Scott added that without the funding from central government, the plans cannot go ahead.

Government are expected to make a decision by early 2019.

Ibrar Hussain, of the GMB Union who represents Sheffield’s taxi drivers, said although he was supportive of the idea to reduce pollution, without funding the trade will not be able to upgrade their fleet.

He said: “It’s absolutely right that the council takes bold action to tackle the air pollution problem. I know that taxi drivers want to be part of the solution and we need to all work together.

“We are looking forward to seeing more details about the support and funding that there will be to help upgrade the city’s taxi fleet, Without funding the trade is not in a position to invest while saturation through cross border hiring is crippling the drivers income.”

Shaun Rumbelow, of Sheffield Friends of the Earth, said he was supportive of the plans but more would need to be done to tackle air pollution.

He said: “Air pollution is a major public health issue across the country as well as in Sheffield. Without action there will be more people suffering breathing problems and ultimately more avoidable deaths.

“The council recognise that simply charging the most polluting lorries, vans, buses and taxis will not achieve the clean air we all deserve unless other solutions are also implemented. We need to improve public transport and create an improved environment for cycling and walking. Cleaner vehicles will be required together with charging infrastructure.

“We hope to work with the council on the detail of this plan and we will continue to lobby the government for adequate funding to implement the solutions.”

Ben Gilligan, head of South Yorkshire Transport Executive, said around £18.3 million has already been invested in public transport through the Better Bus Area scheme, including the council’s new fleet of green buses.

Mr Gilligan said these new greener buses should not be included in the charge.