More misery for diesel drivers
According to The Telegraph, a crackdown begins on drivers who leave engines running, as council officials say they will target diesel vehicles.
Diesel drivers face further penalties due to a crackdown on vehicles left idling outside school gates and on shopping runs as part of attempts to meet European environmental targets.
Islington Council last week announced it is to clamp down on drivers who leave their engines running in stationary vehicles, with on the spot fines for those deemed to be causing unnecessary pollution.
It is believed to be the first council in England to launch a concerted campaign against the practice, with officials claiming they will target buses, lorries and diesel cars in particular.
Other London councils are believed to be considering a similar tough approach to idling, while Dudley Council in the West Midlands has been examining how to tackle the problem of parents leaving engines running outside schools.
Under the clampdown announced by Islington Council, drivers who refuse to turn off their engines while waiting could be fined £20, which would rise to £40 if it is not paid promptly.
The measures are the latest blow for drivers of diesel cars after Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, announced that they will face paying an extra £10 to enter central London from 2020 under plans for a new “ultra-low emission zone”.
Matthew Jaffa of the Federation of Small Businesses said on Sunday that the new charge would drive small firms out of the capital and called for a “root and branch” review of how the congestion charge is calculated.
“This is an attack on business,” he said. “If we want to be open for business, this sends the wrong message in that respect.”
A number of councils across the UK are considering similar measures as they attempt to meet European clean air targets, with almost 20 cities currently forecast to continue exceeding safe levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution until after 2020.
Motoring groups have accused the government of “betraying” drivers who have until now been given tax incentives to choose diesel vehicles over petrol ones, which contribute more to global warming.
But although diesel emits less carbon dioxide, it gives off more nitrogen dioxide which causes local pollution and has been linked to thousands of premature deaths every year in the UK.
Councils gained the power to issue £20 spot fines for idling under the Road Traffic Regulations 2002, rising to £40 if left unpaid, but until now the rule has not been widely enforced. Camden Council launched a crackdown on buses which flout the rules in 2008, but did not target motorists.
Islington Council has now warned that fines will be issued to any drivers who refuse to turn off an engine in a stationary vehicle which is running unnecessarily when asked to do so.
This could include buses and taxis idling on stands, or motorists who leave their car running by the side of the road, but not “common sense” situations such as vehicles which are stopped in a traffic jam.
Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington Council’s executive member for environment, said, “We are committed to improving air quality in Islington which is why we are clamping down on idling buses, lorries and diesel cars.”
But Brandon Lewis, the Communities Minister, warned that Islington’s council’s approach could drive people away from high streets, describing the spot fines as a way to “tax drivers by stealth”.
“This is systematic of a clipboard-wielding culture in many town halls where every response to a policy challenge involves a new tax or a fine on local residents,” he said.
Other councils are likely to follow suit, with the Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, which represents the 32 London boroughs, writing to the Environment Secretary last year calling for more action to improve air quality in the capital.
Among the measures they called for were tougher action against idling, including a “stronger deterrent” of £130 spot fines, as well as higher taxes for diesel drivers.
Diesels are now under fire,
Like lorries, and taxis for hire,
The situation is dire,
For every new London car buyer.
It is a pollution concern,
Diesel is bad when it’s burned,
Pollution is something they spurn,
An environmental concern.
A 130 pound fine,
For idling isn’t so fine,
And taxes that aren’t benign,
Is far from being sublime.
What’s a diesel car driver to do,
When fines and high taxes accrue,
Except to start sing the blues,
And have a Hopshackle or two.
© 2014 Ronald J. Yarosh
All rights reserved