Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent, 20 February 2021, The Times
Clean air for all
Motorists will be paid up to £3,000 to give up their cars under new plans designed to improve air quality in built-up areas, The Times has learnt.
For the first time, drivers of the most polluting cars will receive public money to surrender their vehicle in favour of “credits” that can be spent on public transport, bicycles, electric scooters, car clubs and taxis.
The scheme is designed to reduce car dependency in cities, leading to lower levels of congestion and air pollution. A trial programme will be launched in Coventry in the spring, aimed specifically at drivers of the most polluting vehicles — diesel cars built before 2016 and petrol models built before 2006. The scheme will last for two years and be analysed to test the amount of money needed to achieve a long-term change in travel habits.
A similar programme could take place in the south of England. Hampshire county council is considering a “mobility credit scheme” for residents who agree to no longer own a car. It raised the possibility as part of a public consultation into the county’s local transport plan.
Figures from the Department for Transport show that vehicles collectively covered 356.5 billion miles on British roads in 2019, an increase of almost 11 per cent in five years and 36 per cent since the mid-90s.
Xavier Brice, chief executive of Sustrans, the cycling and walking charity, said that car use was the “biggest contributor to the UK’s carbon emissions, accounting for the majority of roadside air pollution and costing the economy billions annually in traffic congestion”.
He said: “It is great to see local authorities considering new ways to reduce car dependency, including mobility credit. Better, more affordable, public transport is critical to combating air pollution and climate change.”
Edmund King, president of the AA, said that the timing of the initiative was “bizarre” when many car companies were committed to going fully electric. These include Jaguar Land Rover, whose headquarters are in Coventry.
“The money would probably be better spent on providing electric charging points for those without off-street parking rather than giving mobility credits for services that people will use when they need to or feel safe to,” he said.
The Coventry scheme — the first of its kind in Britain – is being run by the city council and the West Midlands Combined Authority. Between £1,500 and £3,000 will be given to motorists in return for having their car towed away for the duration of the trial. The money will be uploaded to a payment card, with spending reserved for public transport, taxis, hire cars and other forms of transport, including bike hire and e-scooters.
The scheme is being paid for as part of a £22 million “future transport” initiative funded by the government. It is envisaged that taxpayer support will eventually be replaced by long-term funding from private companies, including electric car clubs and bus or train operators. Andy Street, the West Midlands mayor, said: “We have a number of candidates lined up in Coventry following a public appeal for volunteers last year and are putting processes in place to allow them to scrap their old cars in exchange for transport credits later this spring.”