Britain’s first Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) has started in Oxford today.
Launching as a pilot, it will allow Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council to gain useful insights before introducing a larger ZEZ covering most of Oxford city centre next year, subject to further public consultation.
The ZEZ pilot will operate from 7am to 7pm all year round, with all petrol and diesel vehicles, including hybrids, incurring a daily charge unless eligible for a discount or exemption.
However, zero emission vehicles, such as electric cars, can enter the pilot area free of charge.
The charge will vary from £2 to £10 per day, depending on the emission levels of the vehicle, with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras being installed to enforce the zone.
A range of exemptions and discounts are available for businesses and residents in the zone.
Commenting, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy, Councillor Duncan Enright said:
“The ZEZ pilot is a very important step towards our aim of moving towards a zero-carbon transport system in the county.
“I want to thank all the residents and businesses who sent us their feedback and worked with us as we developed the pilot. Over the next year, we will learn from this pilot and continue working with our communities before expanding the ZEZ.
“Poor air quality is a public health risk for everyone. The ZEZ will reduce toxic air pollution in our city and while making Oxford a safer, cleaner and better place for people who live and work here and for those who visit.”
Oxford City Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, Councillor Tom Hayes added:
“The start of the Zero Emission Zone pilot is a landmark event for the city of Oxford and our journey to tackle toxic air pollution and reduce our carbon emissions.
“For five years, the city council and I have been engaging with businesses and citizens to develop the Zero Emission Zone and I want to thank everyone for sharing their passion for cleaner air and knowledge about how to pragmatically achieve it.
“We will be using the learnings from this pilot to inform the expansion of the zone to the wider city centre in 2023.”
From today, ZEZ charges for driving a polluting vehicle can be paid up to six days in advance, on the day the vehicle is driven in the zone and up to six days after it has been inside the zone.
Funds raised by the ZEZ will be used to cover the implementation and running costs of the scheme.
Any remaining funds will be used to help residents and businesses make the transition to zero emission vehicles and on other schemes that promote zero and low emission transport in the city.
Transport emissions currently account for 17% of greenhouse gas emissions in Oxford, with air pollution levels in the city plateauing in the last few years following a period of significant improvements in air quality.
The authority said the improvements were partly due to the introduction of a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) for buses in 2014, as well as government funding to install cleaner bus engines.
The ZEZ pilot and its expansion into a larger area offers the opportunity to ensure a further reduction in air pollution levels, the council said.