Salford transport businesses are stepping up their campaign against emission charges as the planned Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone comes back under review.
The Government has given the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) until July to submit a revised plan showing how it will meet its targets to reduce pollution by charging drivers of high-emissions commercial vehicles on key routes across the region.
Whilst many individuals in and around Salford rejoiced at the further delays, some fear the environmental impact, particularly in Salford which has some of the most heavily polluted roads in the region.
Salford taxi and bus companies are already preparing for potentially being charged at stops spanning all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester.
Mike Keavney, of Taxi Transfers, Salford said: “As a transport company we do understand that all our vehicles emit a certain amount of pollution into the air and we have already taken steps to improve this by replacing our older vehicles with new cleaner diesels.
“However, we feel our views and recommendations have NOT been heard or have been ignored by the powers that be.”
Mr Keavney also voiced his frustrations at the lack of clarity from the Government, and the serious financial strain of such as costly bill on a business based on motor travel.
He added: “The total cost of the daily charge for a vehicle used every day would be £2,670 per driver. This would be coming directly from any profits made.
“On top of all the additional charges for fuel, the revised car tax for older more polluting vehicles or vehicles with bigger engines, this is a massive loss.
“The available electric vehicle options they proposed to us as suitable alternatives at the time are not suitable for our business model.
“We are very active with the disabled and vulnerable community as well as doing airport runs with 8 seats and the alternative vehicles are not big enough or do not have enough longevity in the battery for some of our respite transfers.”
The daily charge for taxi drivers would be £7.50 with fines of up to £120 for each daily charge they fail to pay.
The daily charge for high-emission buses would be £60 but bus companies have been preparing for the change and have updated vehicles to avoid the extra cost.
Gary Nolan, at OneBus, which provides around 95 per cent of commercial bus travel around Greater Manchester, said: “We are aware of the delay to the introduction of the CAZ even though as an industry we were on course to have the vast bulk of our fleet compliant by May 2022.
“Therefore even without the introduction of CAZ, all buses across GM will be green and environmentally friendly.”
Mr Nolan also stressed to the public the importance of choosing greener methods of travel, especially in busy cities such as Salford.
A spokesperson for the Go North West bus company mirrored this optimistic standpoint, saying: “We are supportive of the Clean Air Zone in principle and are making preparations to ensure our bus fleet is ready, including taking delivery of more low-emission buses.
“However, the timing of its implementation is a matter for the mayor.”
Salford has seen dozens of protests since the proposal of the Clean Air Zone for Greater Manchester, which aims to charge for travel against all motor vehicles bar private cars, should they not comply with NO2 emission standards.
As the zones are set to operate 24-hours a day and span more than 100 locations, there it little opportunity to escape a daily work route without charge.
A Facebook group named ‘RETHINK the Clean Air Zone — Greater Manchester’ has since gained more than 86,000 members.
Martin Brown, a member of the Facebook group, claimed the increase in motor charges combined with his redundancy would severely compromise his income.
He said: “Eighteen months ago at the age of 59, I was made redundant. With some of my redundancy, I bought a 08 well maintained and low cost Vauxhall Vivaro for £3,500 as that’s all I could afford.
“Now after 12 months I’ve earned about £22,000. Who is going to loan me £40,000 at my age for an electric van, or £24,000 for a compliant diesel one, with the amount I’m earning?”
He also added: “My business insurance on the £3,500 van is £400. How can I now afford the £1,000 insurance on the new van? I can’t, the maths doesn’t add up.
“Come May next year, if the CAZ goes ahead, I’m left with no choice but to wind my business up.”
Dozens of people around Salford from the group have expressed similar struggles, with the vast majority commenting on the implications of their businesses.
Joanne Louise Taylor, said: “Trying to charge the poor out of using their cars, while all of the councils are exempt from it. One rule for us and they can go about polluting the air as much as they like.”
A petition was even started by the group demanding a referendum for the removal of Andy Burnham as mayor, which has received more than 8,000 signatures.
In a statement last month on behalf of the GMCA Burnham maintained that air quality was one of the biggest areas of challenge and that they were committed to tackling it.
Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett also approves of the bill, having approved the plan during the initial consultation in 2020.
When asked for comment, Clean Air Greater Manchester insisted that the bill was vital towards protecting public health around the Salford area, and that poorer air quality has a huge contribution to health conditions such as asthma, heart problems, and certain types of cancer.
The organisation hopes that the Greater Manchester Government will fully comply with regulations by 2026.
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