Questions and answers on the clean air project

Why is the Council considering measures to improve air quality in Cardiff?

The Welsh Government along with the UK and other devolved governments were challenged in the High Court by ClientEarth about excess Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels in parts of the UK, including Wales. ClientEarth were successful in the court proceedings and in January 2018 the Welsh Government made a legal agreement with ClientEarth to take action to bring the levels of NO2down to the permitted levels in the ‘shortest time possible'.

What's that got to do with Cardiff?

In line with the agreement with Client Earth, the Welsh Government legally instructed Cardiff Council to conduct a study in the city to find out how NO2levels can be reduced in the ‘shortest time possible'.

What was the result of the study into NO2 pollution in the city then?

The initial study has identified that by 2021, Castle Street will be in breach of the EU Directive.

What will the solution be?

There has been no decision made yet on the best way to solve the problem. However, Cardiff Council has been instructed by Welsh Government to develop a preferred option that will address NO2levels in the affected streets in the quickest time possible.  An outline business case for the preferred option has to be developed in line with government guidance.

What sort of options or measure are we talking about which could reduce NO2 levels which don't include a charging Clean Air Zone?

In line with the Council's recent Green Paper on Transport and Clean Air, we want to encourage more sustainable and active modes oftransportation. The measures outlined are:

  • Implementing further speed restrictions, enhancing the established 20 MPH limit areas.
  • Developing cycle super highways and the nextbike scheme.
  • Increasing the number of zero emission buses on the Cardiff network.
  • Improving taxi licensing policy to set minimum vehicle emission standards.
  • Improving access for public transport, cyclists and pedestrians from the new bus station and the roads within the city centre loop;
  • Increasing the number of bus lanes to encourage public transport and make travel by bus quicker and more reliable
  • Improving traffic signalling and other traffic demand management to provide further priority for bus movements.
  • Accelerating Park & Ride programmes in North West and North East Cardiff.
  • Improving and promoting the uptake of low-emission vehicles by investing in Cardiff's electrical charging infrastructure.

These measures have been chosen as they have been considered as likely options that the Council can implement in a short time frame in order to achieve improvements in the shortest possible time.

What is being done to help people take up active travel?

There are lots of improvements already in the pipeline:

  • Cardiff Council has ambitious plans to improve walking and cycle routes across the city over the next 3 years.
  • The nextbike public cycle hire scheme in Cardiff has shown pent-up demand in cycling in the City, and has been hugely successful. Over 10,000 hires are being made each week, with over 30,000 people registered to use the bikes. They are great for replacing short trips around the city you may previously have used a car for, and it's easy, quick and fun.
  • Cardiff Bus recently introduced contactless payment - if you don't always carry spare change on you this can make a huge difference as you can simply tap to pay when you get on.
  • South Wales Metro - the development of the Metro over the next 5 years will see increased frequency of trains, new stations, and new and additional carriages with more space for bikes.

Additional proposals are described in the Cardiff Council's  Transport and Clean Air green paper .

Through these schemes there are plans to transform Cardiff's transport system over the next 5 years into one fit for the 21stCentury, ranking with other leading cities around the world. This would be something we can all be really proud of - as well as helping to improve the quality of air for everyone living, working and visiting the city.

What is a charging Clean Air Zone and how does this differ to a Congestion Charge?

A charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is a new mechanism proposed by the government to help local authorities tackle air pollution. It is a defined geographical area which requires polluting vehicle owners to pay a charge on entry to or movement within the zone or banning certain vehicles from entering an area altogether.  The charge is based on vehicle Euro standards so that the most polluting vehicles are targeted.

Further information on the levels set by government can be found in the Welsh Government's draftClean Air Zone Framework  ,which sets out principles that should be followed when a local authority is considering a CAZ in Wales.

Congestion and air pollution are related but are not the same. Clean Air Zones are designed to improve air quality to meet legal requirements and therefore focus on tackling polluting vehicles. A congestion charge does not distinguish between vehicles based on pollution, but aims to reduce the total number of vehicles on the road or within an area. A Clean Air Zone may indeed impact on congestion, but this is likely to only be in the short-term whilst vehicles are upgraded to cleaner models or people adjust their travel choices.

I have a diesel vehicle. I understand diesel engines are mainly responsible for NO2 pollution. Will I be charged or stopped from driving in the city?

No decision has been on whether Cardiff will introduce a CAZ or not. Other measures and the natural upgrade of lower emission vehicles may mean a CAZ is unnecessary in the city. This will all be determined by the results of the initial feasibility study which is still on-going. Even if a CAZ was brought in, charges would not affect every vehicle, just those that do not comply, with levels set by government. The Welsh Government's draft  Clean Air Zone Framework for Wales provides full details on the emission standards that vehicles will have to meet for unrestricted access to a CAZ, but in generalEuro 4 petrol (approx. 2006) vehicles or a Euro 6 diesel (approx. 2015) vehicleswould not be charged, nor would electric or other Low Emission vehicles for entry. 

Who will make the decision on the best way to move forwards?

The final business case will determine the direction that the Council has to take. The chosen solution(s) has to be proportionate to the extent of the problem in Cardiff and the Cabinet will, based on the information presented to it, decide the preferred option which will be assessed in the final business case. This will be reported to Welsh Government no later than the 30thJune 2019, and a timeframe for implementing the preferred option will be agreed with Welsh Government.

What is the timeframe for the decision?

The final business case on the preferred option has to be submitted to the Welsh Government no later than June 30th2019. This will enable the Council to apply for funding to introduce the measures to reduce NO2levels below the legal requirements as quickly as possible.

How will the public and businesses be kept informed?

The Council will develop a communication plan to support the business case on the preferred option. This work will identify all the stakeholders that have an interest in clean air and a variety of communication measures will be put in place to ensure the public, businesses and other stakeholders can contribute and are informed in a timely manner.