In 2017, we saw harsh plans to ban all non-electric cars from the Oxford city centre at all hours. However, the new plans are less strict, proposing a Zero Emission Zone(ZEZ) within the city centre during certain hours of the day – beginning 2020. This is set to be the start of a journey towards complete zero emission transport within the city by 2035.
The council has said that the change followed 15 months of listening to businesses, residents, transport operators, and health experts in Oxfordshire.
From 2020, a ZEZ could apply to some vehicle and journey types, with restrictions gradually to all vehicles in the following years in order to create a mostly transport emissions-free city centre by 2035. The aim of this is to tackle Oxford’s toxic air pollution and protect the health of everyone living, visiting, and working in the city. This is also expected to improve air pollution levels across Oxfordshire, as buses and taxis serving Oxford also serve towns and villages across the county.
The proposed ZEZ, will cover two areas of the city centre (see above) and will see emission requirements on vehicles entering Oxford city centre.
To begin with, restrictions in the Red Zone will require vehicles to be zero-emission in order to enter the zone at certain times.
The Green Zone will be seen as a Low Emission Zone, requiring local buses to be Euro 6 for nitrogen dioxide. This could be enforced through bus operator licensing.
The restrictions within the Green Zone will gradually increase, to the point where all non-zero-emission vehicles will be restricted from entering. This, however, will not apply to emergency vehicles or blue badge holders.
Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council executive board member for a safer and greener environment, said: “Our councils are united in the common cause of driving down toxic and harmful emissions because we care about the health of Oxfordshire and we’re listening to the staggering response to our joint public consultation.
“Our Hackney taxi fleet will be transformed from being 0% zero-emissions capable to 100% over the next five years.
“From next year, under the proposals, only zero-emission vehicles will be able to enter the city centre to park and load when our streets will be at their busiest. And we’re considering strengthening our original plans by banning heavy goods vehicles when footfall in the city centre will be highest because they contribute nearly a fifth of harmful emissions.”