Boardman Burnham Beryl
Greater Manchester's transport commissioner Chris Boardman and mayor Andy Burnham aboard Beryl bikes

Date named for GM clean air zone launch

Neil Tague

Greater Manchester Combined Authority declared that charging for non-compliant commercial vehicles will be introduced from May 2022. It also announced a new bike-share partner.

GMCA said that the £120m it has secured from Government for vehicle replacement programmes will “kickstart the city region’s green revolution”

The authority also announced that bike-share company Beryl has been selected to design, install and operate a 24/7, public cycle hire scheme made up of an initial 1,500 bikes and e-bikes at 200 cycle hire docking stations across Manchester, Trafford and Salford.

The news follows GMCA’s transport committee report that train and tram use across the city region is still only at 45% of pre-Covid levels.

Public transport use has climbed following each stage of restriction-easing: schools returning on 8 March, retail reopening on 12 April and indoors hospitality from 17 May.

However, public transport is still only accounting for 7% of weekly trips. That is 42% below pre-pandemic levels.

Since 12 April, Metrolink has reported patronage at around 45% of pre-Covid levels, adding that this means social distancing cannot be adhered to at peak times.

On rail, footfall at Manchester Piccadilly was reported at 60% down on pre-Covid levels. Northern Rail patronage stands at 45% on the same time comparison.

Progress of the Clean Air Plan – to be presented for endorsement at Friday’s GMCA meeting – has been stepped up since January, when funding was still being finalised.

The combined authority said it has now secured a year’s exemption for all GM district-registered hackney and private hire taxis, following already announced exemptions for vans, minibuses, coaches and disability access taxis.

Applications for funding support to replace vehicles will open from November.

Vans can now access up to £4,500, £1,000 more than initially proposed; while GM hackney cabs can get up to £10,000. HGVs can now get up to £12,000 towards replacement, nearly three times more than was initially offered, and coaches are now eligible for £32,000.

Other elements of the plan, to be presented to GMCA’s meeting this Friday by Trafford leader Andrew Western, policy lead on clean air, include the introduction of 30 taxi-only EV charging points.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “We listened hard to what business owners wanted. The fact is that air pollution is not a problem that is going to go away on its own.

“Not only has our plan been directed by the national government, we’ve taken this seriously and fought to get a plan which has the right funding support for residents and to protect those most vulnerable as well as our trade and businesses.”

Government has directed the ten GM councils to introduce a CAZ to secure compliance with nitrogen dioxide legal limits on local roads in the shortest possible time, and by 2024 at the latest.

Birmingham introduced its CAZ in June, not without issues – although this version is more complicated as it includes private vehicles. Liverpool started the process of its Clean Air Plan consultation in March, saying a charging zone is “highly likely”.

Bristol’s plan, also including private vehicles but restricted to a small city centre area, was filed with Government in March.

A Greater Manchester bus retrofit programme has now started, with seven operators tapping into a £14.7m pot to bring old buses up to standard.

Godfrey Ryan, chief executive of school and business travel business Kura, said: “These policies will have lasting implications for Manchester businesses.”

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