Industry says that the short-notice LEZ plan could see services withdrawn and fares hiked, or require public subsidy which would not be necessary with more preparation time
Plans for a new Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in Glasgow have been criticised by the bus industry, the Sunday Post has reported.
The scheme is set to be introduced without any enforcement measures, and SNP ministers are expected to announce plans to introduce the LEZ by the end of 2018, forcing owners of vehicles which don’t meet strict pollution standards for a part of a city centre to pay tolls or fines.
Transport Scotland said it is proposing a ‘lead-in’ time, which would continue for a period after the LEZ becomes operational. The agency confirmed the approach was to allow vehicle owners time to adopt or upgrade their vehicles, prior to the start of LEZ enforcement.
It is not clear how long it will be before any charges will be levied after the first LEZ is introduced.
Mark Ruskell MSP, the Scottish Greens’ climate spokesman, said: “The Scottish Government’s approach to LEZs is haphazard at best and makes a mockery of Scotland’s commitment to tackling dangerous levels of pollution.”
The bus industry expressed concern that a tight turnaround for the LEZ will force some firms to withdraw services from the zone and displace the air quality problem, or send operating costs soaring.
Ralph Roberts, Managing Director of McGill’s Buses, said: “Introducing a true LEZ at this extremely short notice is going to take a significant amount of public subsidy – subsidy that wouldn’t have been required if bus companies had the time to plan.”
Mr Roberts said that if Hope Street in Glasgow was declared an LEZ, then a bus retrofit programme would cost around £9m.
A CPT spokesman warned of the potential for ‘unintended consequences’ from the plan, and said if an LEZ does not build in sufficient lead-in times or provide support for fleet improvements, services could be withdrawn and fares increased as operators are forced to react to the costs of achieving LEZ standards at short notice.
He added: “Any approach that refuses to tackle private car use or fails to support sustainable transport modes will only result in failure.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is preparing the LEZ consultation to seek views on issues such as LEZ lead-in times and sunset periods.
“The first LEZ in Scotland will be put in place by 2018, with the consultation proposing that a lead-in time would start once the LEZ design is published, and would continue for a period of time after the LEZ becomes operational.
“This approach would provide vehicle owners with time to adapt or upgrade their vehicle, prior to the start of LEZ enforcement.”