Southampton CAZ sparks row

Southampton City Council’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) plans – which penalise coaches and buses but ignore the main polluters – have angered local operators.

The council has announced the next phase of consultation on the proposed Southampton CAZ for the city, closing on 13 September. In its response, the Confederation of Passenger Transport says charging operators with sub-Euro VI coaches £100 but allowing unlimited cars into the charging zone is unfair and ineffective.

“The preferred option impacts heavily on coaches by targeting heavy vehicles while, notably, cars are once again excluded from the plans,” said the CPT. “As the UK’s largest cruise port and with cruise transfers providing a significant source of business for the industry, we would strongly urge all coach operating members to familiarise themselves with the proposals, consider the impact on their businesses, and respond to the consultation accordingly.”

Local operator Lucketts Travel said the CAZ plan apes that in London without the constraint of congestion charging for cars: “From our own perspective, we are prepared for this with 40% of the fleet Euro VI compliant and more to come,” said Lucketts MD Tony Lawman. “But this will have a big impact on coach travel into Southampton. Spending £250,000 or more on Euro VI coaches presents us with a need to make a return on the investment, so regardless of the £100 fee, this will price coaches out of the reach of some customers, including schools.

“These plans are not dealing with the problem. Southampton is going for the London solution because coaches are an easy target, but probably the cleanest way to travel. Will this kill the cruise port business?”

Botley-based touring specialist Pegasus Coaches says it’s been dealing with low-emission zones throughout Europe, but the UK has lacked the commitment of cities like Paris to reduce car traffic: “Cars are the real problem,” said Managing Director Michael Lee. “There are too many, being used too much.

“But this industry will have to have a massive shake-up; my counterparts in Europe get much higher rates and pay drivers well. We have three out of 12 coaches of Euro VI, but I can sum it up by saying I remember when I got my first new coach, and we got £380 a day in 1983; rates haven’t gone up enough since then.”

CPT’s Mark Purchase, Operations Manager and regional manager for the area, says the Southampton approach has been similar to other cities, sweeping up coaches among all heavy vehicles, and ignoring private cars: “It’s the standard Zone B plan. Southampton has mooted discounts and it could use part of the £220 million to subsidise the Euro VI fleet.

“We have pointed out that the focus on coaches is unnecessary as they have minimal impact, and help the local economy, especially the port. We’re working with the port authority to identify the numbers involved before we make our submission to the consultation.”

CPT says it would be very interested to hear from operators on how many journeys they make to Southampton and how many individual vehicles they may use to service these trips. Any details on this should be forwarded to
[email protected]

Details of the council’s consultation and an online questionnaire to fill in can be found here

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