Oxford's 'zero-emissions zone' may be about to ban polluting vehicles

Proposals will almost halve nitrogen dioxide pollution by 2020 on some of Oxford’s most polluted roads

It has been calculated that this would take air pollution levels in Oxford city centre down to near-background levels.

According to the city council, Oxford city centre now has illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a leading cause of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

The switch-over plan is expected to cost Oxford city government, bus companies, and local businesses approximately £7 million to replace the fossil-fuel consuming vehicles, including all municipal vehicles, with electric vehicles. Over 40,000 deaths a year in the United Kingdom are caused by air pollution according to a 2016 report by the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

In George Street, the city's most polluted area, NO2 emissions could be reduced by as much as 74 percent under the new plans.

To help introduce electric vehicles to the streets of the city, Oxford City Council is also fitting a total of 119 electric charging points throughout the city - with 19 of those being used exclusively by taxis. Further funding was requested in June to progress the ZEZ proposal.

While such a dramatic change in the city center's urban design may encourage less driving, thus less greenhouse gas emissions, the zone was inspired by a need to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide, most of which comes from vehicle exhaust, by three-fourths.

In 2035 HGV lorries will also be banned from the zone, making it the first truly Zero Emissions Zone. "Everyone who uses Oxford centre has the right to breathe clean air".

On Monday, a six-week public consultation will be launched that will look at views on the speed of the implementation, as well as the roads and vehicle types included in the scheme.

A "step change" is urgently needed to prevent air pollution from "damaging the health" of Oxford residents, said city councilor John Tanner. Rather than encouraging drivers to pay a fee, as in London, the city will completely ban all but pure-electric vehicles in a bid to halve nitrogen oxide emissions, which have risen above legal limits in certain areas of the city. "Everyone needs to do their bit - from national Government and local authorities, to businesses and residents - to end this public health emergency".

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