Brighton and Hove City Council launched its first low emissions zone (LEZ) this week, after partnership working with local bus companies.
The zone covers the main thoroughfares of Castle Square, North Street and parts of Western Road - an area that captures almost 98% of bus routes in the city.
In some areas of the city toxic nitrogen dioxide levels, linked to asthma and heart conditions and caused by surface transport, are double the European and English legal limits council officials conceded.
Designed to improve air quality, the LEZ imposes two conditions on all bus services entering the zone:
· Buses should be of Euro 5 engine standard or higher or have exhaust lines that have been re-fitted to that standard (subject to some exemptions to allow bus operators time to invest and a permanent exemption for infrequent services which have a small impact on emissions in the area)
· Drivers must switch off their vehicles’ engines if they expect to be stationary for more than a minute; for example if they arrive early and have to wait until their scheduled departure time (with some agreed exemptions such as for extremes of weather for passenger comfort)
Speaking to Transport Network, a council spokesman said: ‘Enforcement is by CCTV camera using our existing network of bus lane cameras. These already monitor all vehicles entering the area and ‘recognise’ through ‘Automatic Number Plate Recognition’ buses permitted to enter.
‘If a bus is not on the list of compliant buses (or list of exemptions) we would write to the bus company for clarification initially. If we were not satisfied with the response we would write to the traffic commissioner explaining that they have breached the terms of their license. The traffic commissioner has powers to fine bus companies if they breach their operating conditions. But we’re expecting it to work through co-operation rather than enforcement.’
Taxis are not covered by the LEZ restrictions but drivers are voluntarily observing ‘no engine idling’ policies while stationary at taxi ranks.
Grant funding awarded to Brighton and Hove City Council also means that a minimum of 25 vehicles will be installed with cleaner exhaust technology. The council is also in the process of retrofitting 50 buses to better than Euro 5 standard and buying a further 24 new Euro 6 buses in the spring.
Cllr Ian Davey, lead member for transport at Brighton and Hove City Council, said: ‘Poor levels of air quality as a result of transport emissions have been a stubborn problem in some areas for more than 20 years. Positive joint working with bus and taxi operators has led to external funding and a strong commitment to a low emission zone for Brighton and Hove. We’re delighted this is now a reality and it is something we will be building on.’