Edinburgh Should Not Take On T-Charges Warns Couriering Leader
Friday, November 17th, 2017
on behalf of Eagle Couriers
COMMENDABLE though its ambitions may be, Edinburgh should not follow London’s T-Charge, writes Jerry Stewart
DIESEL engines are emitting dangerous chemicals and our use of them undoubtedly has to be phased out.
Yet new “T-charges” introduced in London and similar “Low Emission Zones” schemes being mooted for the Scottish capital are a sticking plaster that unfairly punishes drivers – and especially those with less money.
While our understanding of the harm caused by diesel has changed significantly in the past few years, that doesn’t alter the fact that a huge number of well-intentioned drivers – and businesses – spent large portions of their hard-earned income on diesel motors.
And who could blame them? Often with lower road-tax, company car tax and incentivised by higher fuel efficiency figures – the likes of Volkswagen and Mercedes even purposefully branded top-performing diesel engines as “blue” or “eco” models.
This all happened against a backdrop of under-investment in electrical vehicle (EV) infrastructure leaving us playing catch-up with many of our European neighbours.
Now, despite wholesome intentions, T-charges in London will come down hardest on those “just about managing” – who cannot afford London’s expensive public transport or to trade up for a newer, cleaner vehicle. It is a plainly regressive tax.
Once fully introduced and added to the current congestion charges, drivers of old-vehicles needing to enter central London will be forced to pay a whopping £21.50 per day of driving.
It is the old carrot versus stick debate, and in this case the stick is being used to punish the wrong culprit for the current pollution crisis.
Unusually, this is both a hyperlocal and a global issue – and more needs to be done at governmental and even international level to put the onus on vehicle manufacturers. Yet there is a huge amount of positive change that can happen close to home.
While some level of congestion charge in Edinburgh is inevitable and even understandable, it is not a solution in of itself. It needs complemented by bigger thinking about public transport, cycle schemes, education and heavy investment in EV infrastructure.
Only then will we see plummeting diesel emissions delivered in a way that is fair on the poorest drivers and businesses contributing to the economy and society.
Edinburgh’s transport is a constant source of frustration, debate and news. However in its defence, the local council is faced with a rapidly increasing population and a historic city not built with the motor vehicle in mind.
On balance, it has had as many successes as high profile failings. In the interests of so many, let’s hope its approach to the diesel crisis becomes one of its finer moments.
Jerry Stewart is Co-Director with Eagle Couriers and a Fellow with the Institute of Couriers.
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