Birmingham City Council has found itself in a difficult position. The Government has ordered it to establish a clean air zone in the city centre, and now it has to look for a politically acceptable way of achieving this.
It is thought that the Council is unwilling to impose a London style congestion charge on all vehicles. This would be difficult anyway, given how many people have to drive through the city on a daily basis just to get to work. Instead, consideration is being given to charging lorries and buses to pass through the city centre.
Preliminary work has begun, with the installation of automatic number plate recognition cameras on major routes into the city. The cameras are on Broad Street, Summer Hill Road, the Aston Expressway, Digbeth High Street, Bristol Street and Newtown Row.
The cameras are to record the number of lorries and buses that pass through those areas. This information will be used to assess whether a congestion charge would deter sufficient vehicles to allow the Council to meet its target.
In around a year, this assessment will be made, as well as a decision about what the charge should be. Bearing in mind that it is easier to inconvenience hauliers than the general public, it is more likely than not that the charges will come in, along with the inevitable fines for non-compliance.
Hauliers will already be familiar with the problems associated with the Congestion Charge and the Dart Charge. Let’s hope that Birmingham City Council will learn lessons from those.