SCOTLAND’S first low emission zone aimed at tackling air pollution is set to be introduced without any enforcement measures, transport chiefs have admitted.
SNP ministers will next month announce plans to introduce a low emission zone (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.
However, the “knee-jerk” timescale has been slammed by the bus industry, which has warned fares may have to rise in order to pay for the new greener buses or retrofitting needed.
Last night Transport Scotland said the LEZ will be in place by 2018 but they are proposing a “lead-in time would continue for a period after the LEZ becomes operational”.
The Scottish Government agency confirmed the approach was to allow vehicle owners, “time to adopt or upgrade their vehicle, prior to the start of LEZ enforcement”.
Officials refused to say how long it will be before any charges will be levied after the first LEZ, expected to be in Glasgow, 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.”
A spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth said: “The Scottish Government needs to clarify the basics around the LEZ as a matter of urgency.
“There are crucial details missing. We need to know where it will be, how it will be enforced and which vehicles it’ll apply to.”
The bus industry is worried a tight turnaround for the LEZ will force some firms to withdraw services from the zone, and displace the air quality problem, or send 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.”
Asked if the policies are sufficiently ambitious, he said: “If they were, we wouldn’t be sitting here wondering if we’re going to go bankrupt as a result of some last-minute, knee-jerk LEZ scheme.”
Mr Roberts said that if notorious pollution hot-spot Hope Street in Glasgow was declared an LEZ then a bus retrofit programme would cost around £9 million.
A spokesman for bus trade body the Confederation of Passenger Transport warned of the potential for “unintended consequences” from the plan.
He said that if an LEZ does not build in sufficient lead-in times or provide support for fleet improvements then he warned of “services being 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.”