Consultation countdown under way for Greater Manchester clean air plans and taxi standards
22nd September 2020, 3:32 pm
• Three weeks to go until people across Greater Manchester are asked to give their views to shape final clean air plan and minimum standards for taxis and private hire
• A Clean Air Zone is coming from 2022 and we have an opportunity protect our air for future generations
• New taxi standards are designed to make sure every journey is safe and reliable, with the proposal of a zero-emission fleet by the end of the decade
Greater Manchester is gearing up for two major public consultations in October to get a wide range of views on key elements of the biggest Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in the UK outside London, and minimum standards for taxis and private hire vehicles licensed in the city-region.
People from across the region and beyond will be encouraged to have their say on Greater Manchester’s plans through the consultations, which will run from Thursday 8 October to Thursday 3 December 2020.
As there is significant overlap between Greater Manchester’s ambitious Clean Air Plan and the proposed emission standards in the taxi and private hire minimum licensing standards, the two consultations will run at the same time.
In addition to these two consultations taking place in October, November will see the final stage of public consultation on Greater Manchester’s Plan for Homes, Jobs and the Environment – the Spatial Framework. Together, the three consultations support a clear vision to accelerate Greater Manchester’s carbon neutral ambitions for 2038 and build back cleaner and greener from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Government has instructed Greater Manchester to introduce a Category C* class CAZ covering all 10 local authority areas to tackle harmful air pollution on our roads.
Lockdown led to a huge improvement in air quality across the city-region, a reduction in road traffic and an increase in cycling and walking journeys. Since the pandemic restrictions have been reduced and more vehicles have returned to the roads, the levels of air pollution quickly returned, with many sites being above legal limits across Greater Manchester.
The progressive Clean Air Plan demonstrates Greater Manchester’s commitment to building back better from the coronavirus pandemic and underpin a wider vision for the city region: building strong, safe and sustainable communities and places which provide people with a better quality of life.
The clean air consultation will ask for views on key elements of the CAZ including the zone’s proposed boundary, daily charges, discounts and exemptions, and request to government for a multi-million-pound funding package to support local businesses to upgrade to cleaner vehicles.
Government has already committed £41 million to support Greater Manchester businesses, sole traders and the voluntary sector to help upgrade to cleaner commercial vehicles ahead of the CAZ being introduced.
Leaders are also working with government to secure more than £100m in further financial support, as well as a proposed £10m Hardship Fund for those businesses and organisations most affected by the CAZ.**
Alongside the clean air plan, Greater Manchester leaders have proposed minimum licensing standards for taxis and private hire licensed locally, that will help make services safer and more customer-focused, with high environmental and accessibility standards.
This approach stands to benefit drivers and the trade more widely, by strengthening public confidence in a well-regulated and locally licensed taxi and private hire sector and will contribute to better air quality and lower carbon emissions.
Taxi and private hire vehicles play a vital role in keeping Greater Manchester moving, support the night-time economy and fill the gaps in the transport system for those who need it. The proposed standards, which would cover drivers, operators and vehicles, and local licensing authorities***, are designed to make sure every journey is safe, reliable and help secure their long-term future.
Cllr Andrew Western, Green City-region lead, said: “Greater Manchester needs to take action to improve air quality, now and for future generations.
“As air pollution does not respect geographic boundaries, the ten Greater Manchester local authorities have come together to produce a joint plan.
“The minimum standards for taxi and private hire will help deliver a shared vision for the future of the sector in Greater Manchester and a move away from harmful emissions.
“As part of the work around implementing the Clean Air Plan, we have also secured funding that will help some locally licensed owners in renewing or upgrading their vehicles – with the aim to have an entirely zero-emission taxi and private hire fleet across the city region by the end of the decade.”
To support the city-region’s taxi and private hire (PHV) trade, Greater Manchester has put together a significant package of support, including £20m of government funding to directly help the sector in upgrading their vehicles and assisting the move to a zero-emission fleet. We are proposing a temporary exemption for wheelchair-accessible taxi and PHVs as well as a ‘Try Before You Buy’ scheme for hackney drivers to test drive electric taxis, and will work with the trade to develop a network of taxi and PHV-only electric vehicle charge points.
In addition, Greater Manchester will continue to lobby government to change the law to prevent out of area operation, so only those who are licensed within the city-region, and meet Greater Manchester’s high standards, can drive or operate in the area. A meeting with the trade is also set to take place in the coming weeks.
This consultation will be the first of its kind and everyone, including taxi and private hires and operators, will be able to give their views.
To find out more about Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Plans visit cleanairgm.com to sign up to for updates.
* A Category C class Clean Air Zone includes non-compliant buses and coaches, Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs), Light Goods Vehicles (LGVs) or vans, taxis and private hire vehicles.
** Greater Manchester leaders have called on government to provide more than £150m in total in financial support for businesses affected by the Clean Air Zone. This includes:
• £98m for a Clean Commercial Vehicle Fund for vans, HGVs, coaches and minibuses • £25m for a Clean Bus Fund to support retrofit of the existing bus fleet. (Greater Manchester is also working with government on additional funding for the replacement of vehicles that can’t be retrofitted with new, cleaner vehicles.) • A £28m Clean Taxi Fund for taxi and private hire drivers and operators to switch to cleaner vehicles. • A £10m hardship fund – dedicated to small businesses and sole traders who could face additional financial concerns to help them switch to compliant vehicles.
*** Standards would cover drivers, operators and vehicles, and go further and greener than the government’s new standards for the sector by including a step-by-step pathway to reducing harmful emissions from taxis and private hire vehicles.
For drivers, the proposals include:
• Common standards on criminal record checks; medical examinations; a local knowledge test; English language proficiency; driver training; driving proficiency; and dress code.
For vehicles, the proposals include:
• Vehicle emissions; age; colour (black for taxi/hackney, white for PHV); livery (common Greater Manchester design with council logo incorporated); accessibility (all taxis to be wheelchair accessible); vehicle testing and design and licensing requirements; and CCTV.
For operators the proposals include:
• Basic criminal record checks for operators’ staff; more stringent requirements in relation to booking records; and for operators to take more responsibility for the behaviour of their drivers.
For local authorities the proposals include:
• Developing a common enforcement approach and a framework to which licensing fees are set; and councillors to receive training before they hear applications.
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