Industry leaders have expressed concern over announcements of a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in Glasgow. One of the most vocal was McGill’s MD, Ralph Roberts, who was reported in the press that he would be prepared to launch legal action if Glasgow council goes ahead with these plans. He believes the scheme singles out buses and coaches in the city as the target for action to be taken.
Speaking to B&CB, McGill’s MD, Ralph Roberts, said: “While McGill’s is fully supportive of a true LEZ in Glasgow, this is not what this is.” So why is the local authority focusing on buses rather than taxis and cars? Ralph answered: “Because they can. Buses can be controlled via the TRC system that is enforced via the Traffic Commissioner. They can’t enforce taxis and cars because they didn’t do anything about ensuring the legislation was in place to do so. They had the date of 2018 in mind and left it too late to do anything about it.
“For sure, the air quality in Glasgow is poor and vehicles need to clean up, buses included. The bulk of the pollution comes from vehicles other than buses though. The report that this is based on is incomplete and unavailable so we cannot see it to challenge it. The whole thing has been done back to front.”
“Buses will have to accelerate our plans to get to Euro 6. Ordinarily it could take over ten years so we will have to adjust as quickly as we can. Other than buses, there is much more that can be done and a lot more quickly. Congestion is very bad in Glasgow. My average bus speeds in Glasgow city centre are worse than the centre of London. In some streets, taxis are out of control and there are many old pre-Euro emission taxis serving Glasgow.”
What legal grounds would a challenge be based on? “Firstly, the process as outlined above has not been followed and the timeline has been pre-judged. A halt will be called to the proceedings to allow due process to be followed. Once that is done, the council will have to justify why they have not taken the basic steps of enforcing the illegal queuing and idling by taxis on Hope Street. Additionally, they would need to show what the impact upon bus services would be and whether this is in the public interest versus the perceived benefits. Lastly, whilst they call it a low emission zone, it would not be given that there would be zero restrictions on anything other than buses. In effect, it would be an unagreed extension of the Glasgow SQP (Statutory Quality Partnership) vehicle emission standards.
“The theory behind an LEZ is this; ensure that the public transport system is ready and able to accept the modal shift that will result once the LEZ comes into force. Then the LEZ is enforced and the benefits received in air quality and the public realm. In Glasgow, what is going to happen is that bus services will be cut, people will use their cars instead and congestion and air quality will become exponentially worse. If they ever get around to bringing a true LEZ into place that affects all vehicles, the public transport system will struggle to cope and the city will suffer economically as people seek jobs and retail opportunities elsewhere.”
First Glasgow ‘disappointed’
Commenting on the proposals, MD of First Glasgow, Andrew Jarvis, said, “We are fully supportive of the Scottish Government’s plans for Low Emission Zones and are committed to working in partnership with Glasgow City Council and other stakeholders to improve air quality.
“However, as Glasgow’s biggest bus operator, First Glasgow is deeply disappointed that the city council’s proposals for implementation of a Low Emission Zone in Glasgow focus only on bus, which is the one form of road transport capable of reducing congestion and improving air quality on the city’s roads, given that one bus can convey the people from 75 cars. In particular, this bus-only approach is in stark contrast to the current Scottish Government consultation ‘Building Scotland’s Low Emission Zones’ which specifically states that ‘bus-only LEZs are not being proposed in this consultation for any location in Scotland’.
“Our disappointment continues with the lack of engagement and consultation surrounding these specific proposals. We await the initiation of discussion with the council on the timescales for compliance on vehicle emissions and will be requesting access to the technical data referenced in this report.”
What’s the plan?
A paper on the LEZ was passed by the City Administration Committee last week. The Zone is to be focused on the streets in Glasgow currently experiencing the highest levels of pollution. The proposed LEZ would require all buses and coaches in the city to meet Euro 6 by the end of 2018. The initial phase of the LEZ will focus on reducing bus emissions, with subsequent phases including trucks, vans, cars and motorbikes. It was acknowledged that the costs for implementing and enforcing an LEZ for Glasgow City Council will be significant, together with the cost for commercial fleet and bus operators. It was agreed that further work requires to be undertaken to estimate these costs in more detail and is due to be presented to committee in the update report within six months.