Britain’s first Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) pilot is set to launch in Oxford in February 2022, with the registration system for exemptions and discounts going live in December 2021.
The pilot was meant to have started in August. But Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council revised the timeline after working together to resolve technical complexities in the bespoke supporting online systems for the ZEZ.
The refreshed dates avoid any disruption that might have been created by introducing the ZEZ pilot during the run-up to Christmas – a crucial time for businesses.
The exact start date for the ZEZ pilot will be confirmed later this year, followed by a review of the timeline for the wider ZEZ to cover most of the Oxford city centre.
The ZEZ pilot means polluting vehicles will be charged if driven in key city centre streets from 7.00am to 7.00pm, seven days a week.
Under the ZEZ pilot, those who drive polluting vehicles into the zone will be charged, with the level of the charge dependent on how polluting the vehicle is. Under the scheme, zero-emission vehicles will not be charged to drive in the zone.
The daily charges will be:
The ZEZ pilot will work like the London Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone. Signs will be installed around the perimeter of the zone and on routes leading to it to notify drivers of the ZEZ pilot. Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras will be used to enforce the zone.
The ZEZ pilot will allow both councils to gain useful experience and information before introducing a larger Zero Emission Zone covering most of Oxford city centre, subject to further public consultation.
A range of exemptions and discounts are available, including for businesses and residents in the zone and some other vehicle users.
Businesses, residents, and visitors are encouraged to visit the Zero Emission Zone website to understand how the scheme will affect them and to find out more about the daily charges.
The registration process to apply for discounts will open at least six weeks before the start of the ZEZ pilot.
Both councils have been preparing for the ZEZ pilot scheme since it was approved in March 2021. This has including preparing the enforcement systems and working with businesses and residents to support the launch.
Other activities included:
Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council, said: “If you’ve been to the shops recently and wondered why some shelves look bare, you’ll understand why we’re launching the Zero Emission Zone early next year.
“With businesses being hit by shortages and COVID’s lingering effects, we want to give Oxford’s economy a helping hand to have the best Christmas possible. With our IT problems sorted, the Zero Emission Zone pilot can launch in February 2022 in a way, which we can truly learn from.
“That way, we can move to extending the ZEZ across the city centre, so that we can improve the air and health of people.”
Councillor Duncan Enright, Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Poor air quality in our beloved city is a major concern, and alongside the climate emergency, this means we need to act.
“The Oxford Zero Emission Zone pilot is an important step in tackling these problems, and will make our city centre a cleaner, healthier and more attractive place to live, work, visit and shop. It will also mean there is more space for those on foot and bikes, as well as our vital bus and taxi services.
“We will be working in coming months with residents and businesses to adapt to this change and plan next steps to make Oxford a cleaner, lovelier, and more sustainable city, fit for the future.”