Sheffield congestion charge: ‘Drivers need an alternative’

Congestion in Sheffield city centre
Congestion in Sheffield city centre

The Green Party have spoken out about Sheffield City Council plans to introduce a pollution charge of up to £50 a day on buses, vans, taxis, coaches and lorries in the city centre.

It will apply in the ring road and inner ring road.

Coun Rob Murphy

Coun Rob Murphy

The council hope it will encourage drivers to upgrade their vehicles to Euro 6 engine standard, as well as reduce air 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 Rob Murphy, leader of the Green Party, said they support the idea but said there needed to be another option to stop people from driving more on backstreets instead.

Coun Jack Scott

Coun Jack Scott

He said: “Cleaner buses would make a big difference. We think any idea to improve air quality in the city is good but, practically we have some questions about how it will go ahead.

“If it was just on the inner ring road it would be fine, but on the actual ring road it would not provide any alternatives for people.

“Almost all other pollution charges are within the inner ring road. If you take away the alternative people will just drive through suburbs, increasing air pollution and congestion in backstreets which is not solving anything.

“It’s unclear exactly what the plans are but it will not work without funding from the government, and Sheffield buses have already had a big investment.”

The council’s plans would see a daily charge of £50 for buses, and £10 for taxis, vans, lorries and coaches.

Private vehicles have been excluded from the charge.

Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and development, 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.”

The council said it would be a Class C charge, meaning smaller vehicles like vans will also have to pay. This is different to Leeds which has a Class B charge, which includes only heavier vehicles.

Coun Murphy said: “I drive a white van myself and there doesn’t seem to be a lot on how they will support small vans and we should be supporting independent businesses too, not just taxi and bus companies.

“You need to give people an alternative route. The bus service has been ground down, the tram service has still not been extended and the rail service is pathetic. We need to focus on decent public transport.”