Newcastle CAZ: Significant fall in high polluting vehicles entering clean air zone

Figures have revealed there has been a substantial drop in the number of non-compliant vehicles coming into the city centre zone. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The number of high-polluting vehicles being driven through Newcastle city centre has been cut by 16,000 per week since the introduction of Clean Air Zone (CAZ) tolls.

New CAZ charges of either £12.50 or £50 per day for older taxis, buses, coaches, lorries, and vans that do not meet environmental standards came into force in 2023.

The aim of the project is to cut illegal levels of air pollution in emissions hotspots, as local councils have been ordered to do by the government.

Data revealing the CAZ’s impact on air quality since it first launched in January last year is yet to be published.

However, figures have revealed there has been a substantial drop in the number of non-compliant vehicles coming into the city centre zone.

According to a Newcastle City Council report, about 26,000 unique vehicles that did not comply with the CAZ’s emissions standards entered the city centre in the week before the tolls were introduced.

By the end of 2023, that had dropped to 10,000 high-polluting taxis, buses, coaches, lorries, and vans.

Private cars were excluded from the count, carried out using the 38 automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras positioned around the CAZ, as they are all exempt from the tolls.

In a report presented to councillors on Tuesday afternoon, Newcastle City Council transport boss Pamela Holmes said that the improvement was down to a variety of factors – including the natural phasing out of older vehicles from the market, people and businesses bringing forward their plans to buy to a newer vehicle in order to avoid the CAZ tolls, and those that have successfully obtained grants from the council to help upgrade to cleaner models.

There have been concerns previously that the CAZ would risk pushing air pollution problems to communities in other parts of the city, particularly to the outer west of Newcastle if more drivers are using the A1 to cross the Tyne.

The report presented to the city council’s finance and budget monitoring scrutiny committee on Tuesday does not reference whether there has been a noted displacement of high-polluting traffic elsewhere on Tyneside.

Latest data on air quality levels in Newcastle is expected to be published in July, the Local Democracy Reporting Service understands.

Ms Holmes’ report states that compliance with the CAZ’s restrictions has improved across all categories of vehicle since January 2023.

The overall percentage of compliant vehicles, excluding cars, entering the zone each week increased from 64% to 83%.

Compliance among HGVs has risen from 81% to 95%, for buses and coaches from 62% to 76%, for LGVs from 60% to 82%, and for taxis and private hire vehicles from 73% to 92%.

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