House of Commons Library

Local road charges

Published Tuesday, May 10, 2016

This short paper explains what local road charging schemes are, how they can be implanted and what the attitudes of successive governments have been to their introduction.

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The Labour Government legislated more than a decade and a half ago to allow local authorities to establish local road charging schemes in their areas: these were aimed at combating congestion and tackling poor air quality. However, use of these powers has been limited to a small scheme in Durham and, more recently, limited emissions-targeted schemes in places like Brighton and Nottingham.

The only congestion scheme in the UK is the one in London; plans to introduce such a scheme in Cambridge, Edinburgh and Manchester collapsed in the mid-2000s, in two cases following substantial defeats in local referenda.

However, poor air quality in many urban areas has led to a resurgence of interest in local road charges, specifically by introducing ‘low emission’ or ‘clean air’ zones in five cities: Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Southampton and Derby. The Government published draft Regulations and a draft Clean Air Zone Framework in October 2016. It has also indicated that more cities may be required to have a CAZ in the future.

London has had a low emission zone since 2008, which has been gradually strengthened, and there are plans to make this an ‘ultra’ low emission zone by 2019. This paper does not deal with the London schemes: more information can be found in HC Library briefing paper SN2044.

Further information on road charging in London and other forms of charging such as toll roads and national road pricing can be found on the Roads Topical Page of the Parliament website.

Commons Briefing papers SN01171

Author: Louise Butcher

Topics: Pollution, Roads

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