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Clean Air Zone can be clean slate for trade

LandFlight director Danny Matthews believes the proposed CAZ in Birmingham can be a breath of fresh air to the Private Hire industry


It has made headlines recently with media outlets from the BBC to the Daily Mail reporting on it – but how will Birmingham’s proposed Clean Air Zone actually affect us?

One of six major cities in the UK required by the Government to improve air quality, Birmingham City Council has announced a 12-week consultation on plans for a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) to be in place by 2019.

In doing so, the city’s authority will have to demonstrate by 2020 that the required air quality standards – set by the Ambient Air Quality Directive – are being met. As part of this, the council must provide 12 months’ worth of supporting data, which means the latest implementation date for the standard is December 2018.

The proposed CAZ would likely encompass the middle ring road (A4540) and impose strict emissions levels for any vehicle entering the area.

Even more far-reaching, however, are proposals for Hackney Carriage and Private Hire vehicle emission standards outside of the proposed CAZ.

There are around 4,200 private hire vehicles licenced with Birmingham City Council, with an average age of 11.1 years – considerably older than in many other cities in the UK. Only 2 per cent of Private Hire Vehicles are two years old or newer and just 16 per cent of the fleet is currently estimated to meet Euro 5 emission standards.

Birmingham City Council are proposing that by December 2017 they will only renew existing licences for Private Hire vehicles that meet Euro 4 standard for petrol or Euro 5 for diesel. This would remove an estimated 1428 vehicles (34%) from the currently licenced fleet. Further restrictions are then proposed from December 2018.

At LandFlight, we operate a fleet of Mercedes vehicles, from executive saloons to coaches, which will meet the specific euro ratings in the required time frame. This clearly puts us in a healthy position should the proposals go ahead, which is highly likely.

However, seeing past merely ‘towing the company line’, I believe the proposed Clean Air Zone offers the Private Hire industry an opportunity to improve the image and overall customer experience the trade provides.

Modern, less polluting vehicles are undoubtedly better for the health of us all and, in particular, the drivers. Let’s not forget they are in the thick of it all day.

However, modern vehicles also offer a wealth of technology which is continually enhancing passenger safety and comfort – safety cells, crumple zones, multiple airbags, ABS, auto-braking, lane departure, reverse cameras and, of course, improved ride qualities and noise levels.

Set against the fact, if the proposals are fully adopted, none of the current Hackney Carriage vehicles currently licensed would be able to retain their licences beyond December 2018 (apart from around 63 which are converted to LPG), there are some compelling reasons to embrace these proposals – certainly for those Private Hire operators and drivers who can see past the current Uber challenge. But that’s a discussion for another day…

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