Congestion charge being considered in Wales amid concern over pollution

A type of congestion charge is being considered in Wales to help tackle traffic levels as concern grows over pollution levels.

Cardiff Council has said public transport improvements, such as £1 bus fares on key routes, needed to be in place before the introduction of any payment, reports the BBC.

There are no details related to cost or the area in which the charge might apply yet.

If given the go-ahead, the scheme could take up to five years to implement, the council said in a statement.

Councillors will consider a report into the proposal on 27 April and, if they agree to move ahead with the plans, will look at different schemes including road user payments, congestion zones, clean air zones and workplace parking charges, said the BBC report.

The council wants to use road charging to fund public transport improvements.

But it’s been opposed by the Conservatives, who said residents should not be penalised for their choice of transport.

The council said the consultation would determine what a “fair” charge might look like and city residents may be exempt, reimbursed or qualify for discounts.

This plan could mirror schemes in other parts of the country, such as in London where residents qualify for a 90% discount on the ultra low emission zone charge if they live within the clean-air zone.

There, drivers of vehicles that do not meet minimum emissions standards are charged £12.50 a day.

In Bristol, polluting vehicles are charged £9 to enter the city and in Birmingham drivers are charged £8 a day to drive high-polluting cars into the city.

Council leader Huw Thomas said the city needed a cleaner transport system. “The current levels of traffic in Cardiff are costing the average resident hundreds upon hundreds of pounds each year and holding our economy back,” he said. “That’s on top of the environmental and health damage caused by congestion.”

He said it was “imperative” the council created a transport system which connected everyone.

Transport charity Sustrans Cymru said it was a “positive step” that could reduce congestion and air pollution.

Fiona Kinghorn, executive director of public health of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said that air pollution has a “clear impact” on public health and any step to reduce the number of cars on the road would “be positive for health of all age groups”.

“There is a clear impact of air pollution on people’s health, from preconception right through to old age,” she said.

“Reducing car use [also] has an impact on physical activity levels. And of course on climate change.”

The council said £1 bus fares on key routes and better and expanded bus services would be available before any road user charge was introduced, as well as improvements to regional commuting.

Once any scheme was introduced, the money raised, alongside government funding contributions could then help fund a Metro city-wide tram system and new stations with a minimum of four trams an hour.

It could also fund improved bus services and the delivery of an electric bus and taxi fleet, the authority said.

Other long-term plans include the completion of the Eastern Bay Link and sustainable travel incentives such as travel discounts and bike purchase vouchers.

Welsh Conservative shadow minister for transport Natasha Asghar said the plan appeared to be “just another way to punish motorists”, and claimed public transport links outside of Cardiff were too unreliable to be seen as viable alternatives.

“With the Labour government’s backwards ban on road building, the impending rollout of 20mph speed limits, and vital financial support for buses coming to an end you can’t help but feel that motorists are being targeted,” she said.

She added that the congestion charge would be “a detriment to people’s work life balance” due to a reliance on public transport that was “unreliable and constantly late”.

Cardiff councillor Rodney Berman, of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said the proposal should be put to a referendum for residents.

“Any proposal for a significant congestion charging scheme must have support from the people of the city,” he said.


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