November 30, 2023

Government mandated Clean Air Zone continues as air quality challenges persist

Cllr Vernon-Jackson standing in front of an electric bus

Council urges Government investment to propel transformation in travel and ensure cleaner air for Portsmouth residents.

Portsmouth’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) marks its two-year anniversary this week, yet government assessments reveal a critical need for it to be continued. While 94% of monitored areas comply with air quality standards, data reveals persistent challenges in specific locations.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson, Cabinet member for Transport, said: “We have always said to Government that the mandated Clean Air Zone is not enough to reduce air pollution. The recent funding for better bus travel, improved walking and cycling routes and zero emissions buses are a start but far more is needed to ensure Portsmouth prospers and we protect the health of people in our city.

“For the mandated Clean Air Zone to work the government needs to significantly invest in transforming the way people can travel in Portsmouth in the same way they have done in London so that it is easier to choose a cleaner journey and for businesses to operate in a more sustainable way.”

The Portsmouth mandated Clean Air Zone started charging buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, and heavy goods vehicles that do not meet the Euro 6 emission standards for diesel and Euro 4 for petrol, specifically in the southwestern region of the city from 29 November 2021. Newer and cleaner vehicles, as well as personal cars and vans, are not charged. There are also specific exemptions for certain vehicle categories. Within the CAZ the data shows that air pollution continues to be above legal limits in the following locations: Hope Street, Market Way and Alfred Road.

The council has recently received over £140 million in external funding to help transform bus travel, with the aim of increasing the number of people using the bus to above pre pandemic levels, by creating faster and more reliable bus routes, making bus tickets more affordable and launching the first electric buses. In addition to this the council is improving cycle and walking routes as well as providing rental escooters and bikes.

In addition, the newly launched car club provides more affordable shared access to a car for when people need it. This gives people more ways to travel that keep the air in Portsmouth cleaner. Some of these schemes are just beginning, and their full impact on improving air quality will only be seen once they are fully up and running.

The introduction of ‘shore power’ at the port will also help to improve air quality in other areas of the city. The port has won a £20 million grant from the government, unlocked by £7m of investment from the council, which will mean ferries and cruise ships can run on electricity from the grid when in port and turn off their engines. This ground-breaking new system will be ready for use in early 2025.

To reduce exposure to air pollution people are encouraged to choose quieter walking and cycling routes. Research has shown the place people are most exposed to air pollution is while sitting in a vehicle queuing in traffic, so people can make a positive difference for themselves by choosing an alternative way of travel. Also, drivers can contribute to reducing air pollution by simply switching off their engines when stationary or making sure auto stop is activated on newer vehicles.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson, said: “Air quality is a serious issue for the health and wellbeing of people in our city. We’re committed to making improvements, but we need people to help. We’ll keep pushing to improve the transport options in the city and if everyone can make a small change to how they travel, even if it’s just one journey, the impact across the city would be of huge benefit to everyone.”

Find out more about Portsmouth’s Clean Air Zone