It may be well meaning but coach operators especially have never warmed to it, it being London's Low Emissions Zone. Operators aren’t alone. The Association of London Government has made its feelings known: “LEZ would bring very little improvement to the capital’s air quality despite costing around £600 million to introduce and enforce.”
And it transpires that those operators who have planned ahead by changing vehicles or fitting soot traps *may* have wasted their time. A report in this week's routeONE suggests that some older coaches at Euro I and II standard may be permissible after all. It depends on their particulates emissions. This could buy time till the Euro IV deadline is reached.
The timescale for PSVs to meet LEZ standards is:
- July 2008 for Euro III for buses & coaches exceeding five tones GVW (unless, now, a vehicle passes at Euro I or II)
- October 2010 for Euro III for minibuses (diesel passenger vehicles with more than eight passenger seats below five tonnes GVW)
- January 2012 for Euro IV for buses & coaches exceeding five tones GVW
- Buses & coaches registered on or after October 2001 are assumed to meet LEZ standards as they should be Euro III
On the plus side, virtually all scheduled London bus services are likely to cope with LEZ’s initial Euro III requirements and, through planned replacements, Euro IV.
What about coaches, school contracts and older school vehicles? Here are the choices:
- Ask VOSA to run a check to see if your Euro I or II vehicle will comply (available next month). You just never know.
- Avoid the LEZ. Since this is virtually all of London, this could be difficult. Operators will avoid London where they can, in any case. Avoidance may well increase emissions.
- Modify the vehicle with approved emissions abatement equipment. Whether this is economic will depend upon the vehicle’s usage in the LEZ, its age, condition and eventual residual value. A number of local bus operators throughout England have fitted vehicles with such equipment, usually with a 50:50 grant. TfL, however, is offering *no* grants.
- Purchase vehicles to newer Euro III and, when appropriate Euro IV. That proves costly.
- Pay the £200 charge per vehicle operated in LEZ per day. That’s a surcharge of some £4 per passenger seat on a 49/50 seat coach that does *not* meet Euro III (or Euro IV when appropriate). This may well double some very short distance hires.
- Risk using the vehicle and hope you won’t get caught. That’s risky and attracts up to a £1,000 penalty. Or £20 per passenger seat.
Operators need to plan now, especially who regularly head for Heathrow (in LEZ) and those extending further than the M25 (the M25 itself is out of the LEZ).
Is all this justified? Not if you believe the ALG. They’re no doubt concerned about a drop in trade, recognising that London depends upon coaches (and lorries). The ALG feels that London’s air quality by 2010 will improve by 11.3 per cent as newer vehicles naturally replace older. They state that LEZ will make an additional improvement of just 0.3 per cent.