Fears Newcastle Clean Air Zone plan could be delayed by malfunctioning vehicle checker system
Birmingham and Leeds have been forced to postpone their anti-pollution measures because of a malfunctioning government service, which Tyneside leaders are keeping a close eye onby Daniel Holland
City bosses aiming to slash dangerous pollution levels in Newcastle are unsure whether a malfunctioning government vehicle checker system will delay Newcastle's proposed Clean Air Zone.
Daily tolls of up to £50 are due to come into force around the city centre from January 2021 for some high-polluting vehicles.
But similar plans in Birmingham have been pushed back for a second time, due to errors with the government’s online service which allows motorists to check whether or not they will be affected.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps called for 'urgent work' on the checker on Wednesday, saying it is 'not up to scratch'.
Private cars will be exempt from all charges under the Newcastle CAZ plan, which was submitted to ministers last month.
But buses, coaches, and lorries that do not meet environmental standards would face £50 tolls under the plan, while some taxis and vans would be hit with £12.50 fees.
After the government’s checker website was launched last week, it emerged that some road users whose cars should have been compliant with the CAZ’s environmental standards were wrongly being told they would have to pay the daily charges.
Both Birmingham and Leeds were set to introduce their respective CAZs on January 1, but had to delay them until July because of problems with the vehicle checking tool.
Birmingham City Council has now announced that its charges will not come into force for a full six months after the online service is finally fixed - delaying it until at least the end of August, if not longer.
Counterparts on Tyneside say it is too soon to tell whether the problems will have any effect on the Newcastle CAZ.
A spokesperson for Newcastle City Council said: “We are aware that there have been some issues with the national vehicle checker and we are awaiting further details on when this will be resolved.
“We remain in contact with government and are currently awaiting government approval and confirmation of funding for the package of measures we have submitted.”
Alongside the CAZ fees, the council will also cut traffic on the Tyne Bridge to one lane in each direction in a bid to deter drivers.
The controversial scheme has been devised in response to a government order to bring down illegal air pollution levels in the shortest possible time.