Bath CAZ: schools dilemma
Plans for Bath to levy swingeing charges on coaches and buses to enter its Clean Air Zone after 2020 have met with concern about schools services.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport’s Regional Manager, John Burch, attended a meeting with Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) council last week, and said that an option for school transport suppliers to pre-register trips into the CAZ and avoid the £100 fee has been dropped.
John said another promise to grant-aid fitting of Euro VI retrofit systems has also changed, replaced with a five-year loan: “Schools operators are struggling to understand how their trips will survive – there aren’t the revenues. We’d wanted an exemption for pre-registered educational trips, but BANES isn’t following that through.”
The CPT man said that most operators feel they cannot justify the cost of the Euro VI upgrade for schools vehicles: “We have made a request to reduce the fee,” said John. “We have also suggested the loan period should be extended to seven years to reflect most operators’ vehicle replacement cycle.”
According to figures compiled by the CPT, Bath enjoys £38 million a year spend from coach passengers, but coach parking changes have seen operators slowly edged out of the city, leaving a drop-off at Riverside Coach Park, around a half-mile walk from the city; parking at Weston Island at which drivers need to catch a bus back to the city; and Odd Down Park & Ride, around four miles from the city centre.
One operator infuriated by the CAZ proposal said that, if BANES is not going to tackle private car traffic, he cannot take it seriously: “The exemption for disabled children going to school is ridiculous,” said Steve Spiller, of Centurion Travel. “It just means 50 children on a coach, taking more than 40 cars off the road, will have to pay. I can see this pushing them to car-sharing, which isn’t as efficient.”
Representatives from BANES have agreed to a further meeting with coach operators.