OXFORD'S revised plans for a 'world first' Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) have been announced, with stringent regulations for buses and taxis set to come into force in the next few years. 

The new plans appear to be more lenient on driving in the city, with previous proposals for a ban on drivers next year dropped.

FULL STORY: Zero Emission Zone plans relaxed as 2020 driving ban dropped 

Here, Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council answer some of the main questions from the new proposals and about what a ZEZ could mean for the city and you... 

Why are you proposing a Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) in Oxford?

Reports suggest air pollution contributes to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and changes linked to dementia and that outdoor air pollution causes about 40,000 early deaths every year in the UK. 

The European Union requires national governments to keep annual average NO2 levels across their countries to below 40µg/m3. Despite a 42.9 per cent reduction in NO2 levels across Oxford in the last decade, parts of the city centre are still failing to meet this legal limit and health experts have warned that there is no safe level for NO2. 

Four of the city’s air pollution monitoring locations still registered NO2 levels above the legal limit in 2017.

The majority of emissions and air pollution in the city centre is generated by motorised traffic. Moving to emission free transport solutions the most effective solution to our air pollution problems.  

Oxford Mail: Councillors Tom Hayes and Yvonne Constance. Picture: Richard Cave
Why are you considering changes to the scheme?

Between October and November 2017 we held a public consultation on the council’s original proposals for the zone. In total, 755 individuals and businesses took part in the consultation. Although there was huge support for a Zero Emission Zone in Oxford, many concerns were raised.

Following the public consultation, further discussions with affected organisations, businesses and individual were undertaken and the 2017 monitoring data has led the two councils to consider a different approach to the journey to zero emission transport in Oxford.  

As part of this we have also explored in more detail the legal implementation and enforcement aspects of the scheme.

Oxford Mail:
The new proposal (above) and old one (below)
Oxford Mail:

Will the implementation of the ZEZ just spread air quality problems to the suburbs of Oxford?

It is expected that introducing a ZEZ will improve the quality of air within Oxford overall and beyond due to the restrictions on vehicles that can use the centre.  Vehicles entering the city centre travel to other parts of the city and county, so the emissions benefits will extend significantly beyond the zone.
What will the impact of the revised ZEZ be on private vehicles?

The proposed 2020 zone would see loading and parking on the highway in the core of the city centre banned during the busy daytime hours except zero emission capable vehicles. It is unlikely to affect many private vehicles at this stage as it is limited to this area. It does however cover some blue badge parking spaces and it is proposed that blue badge holders will be exempt.

The councils are investigating options including the introduction of a charging scheme in 2022/23 for a larger area of the city, which would see only zero emission vans, lorries and buses able to enter for free. This may be extended to cover private cars by 2025. 

When will I need to replace my car?

Government is planning to ban the production of all pollution emitting vehicles by 2040. In Oxford, under the current approach, private cars that are not zero emission are proposed to be banned from parking and loading on all roads in the inner area of the city centre in 2020 during the busiest periods.

There could also be charges or other measures that restrict non-zero emission cars entering the city centre by 2025, but this depends on further work.  
What happens to residents who live in the green zone and who don’t have a zero emission vehicle? 

Currently no decision has been made about what specific measures will be introduced to restrict vehicles entering the green zone, or how residents in the zone would be treated under those restrictions. 
Will disabled drivers of vehicles that do not comply with the ZEZ be exempt?

It is expected that blue badge holders will be exempt from the emissions-based parking and loading restrictions in the city centre in 2020.  

Will the ZEZ cause alterations to bus routes / stops?

The ZEZ is not intended to change bus routes/bus stops, but instead bus companies will be encouraged to update their fleet.  
How will I receive deliveries to my business located within the Zone?

Through the previous public consultation and engagement with impacted businesses we have gathered information about the challenges associated with deliveries within the zone. This is one reason why we are now proposing a part-time Zero Emission Zone in 2020. This will allow deliveries in non-zero emission vehicles to be made when there is least footfall in the city.

There are also a number of zero emission delivery companies already operating in Oxford and it is anticipated this market will develop to accommodate deliveries within the zone. 

Will Emergency vehicles be banned from entering the zone if they are not zero emission?

Currently there are no zero emission emergency vehicles available and therefore emergency vehicles will not be banned from entering the zone.

Are motorbikes and mopeds excluded from the zone? Currently no decision has been made as to whether to include motorcycles and mopeds in the proposals.  
How will the restrictions be legally implemented and enforced?

The taxi emission requirements would be implemented through the city council’s taxi licensing powers and will be enforced by the city council. 

The bus emission requirements would be implemented through the application of a Traffic Regulation Condition (TRC) to bus operators’ operating licences and enforced by the Traffic Commissioner. 

The red zone requirements would be implemented through a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) and enforced by the county council using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology. 

Options for enforcement of the green zone are being worked up. One approach could be the implementation of a local charging scheme (the same mechanism as used for the London Low Emission Zone and various proposed Clean Air Zones in other British cities) and enforcement by the county council using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology. 
Will hybrid vehicles be allowed in the ZEZ?

Under current proposals vehicles which meet the following definition will be allowed in the zone: any vehicle with emits less than 75g of CO2/km from the tailpipe and capable of at least 10 miles of zero emission driving.  This includes: Pure electric vehicles, Range-extended electric vehicles, Certain plug-in hybrid vehicles, Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.


- The previous plan

- World Health Organisation gives backing to Oxford's ZEZ

- ZEZ: Madrid battles Oxford for world's first zero emissions zone

- Oxford plan could hit bus company for millions

What are the next steps for implementation?

The two councils are undertaking informal consultation with affected stakeholders during the beginning of 2019 to further refine the proposals. Further technical work, including work on the financial implications will also be completed during this period. This will be followed by a public consultation on the proposals in autumn 2019.  
Why are you proposing to include HGVs in the early stages, where you excluded them in previous proposals?

HGVs contribute 17 per cent of emissions in the city centre while they only account for 5 per cent of vehicle kilometres undertaken in the city centre. So while they only make up a small percentage of the traffic movements, their emissions are high.  We’re now proposing, based on recent air quality monitoring results, to include a Euro 6 requirement in the scheme and because Euro 6 HGVs are widely available it is therefore proposed that they are included in proposals much earlier.  
What about Private Hire vehicles?

The private hire fleet is already relatively low emission: in 2016 nearly half of the private hire fleet licensed by Oxford City Council met the 2010 EURO standards as compared to only 7 per cent for the hackney carriage fleet. However, the private hire vehicles will be subject to the requirements of the Zero Emissions Zone as it expands in scope and area. 
What is a zero emission vehicle and what vehicles will be allowed in the zone?

Under current proposals cars and vans which meet the following definition will be allowed in the zone: any vehicle with emits less than 75g of CO2/km from the tailpipe and capable of at least 10 miles of zero emission driving.  This includes:pure electric vehicles, range-extended electric vehicles, certain plug-in hybrid vehicle, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles 
Why are you not requiring buses to be zero emission?

Oxford Mail: The Oxford Bus Company fleet

Euro 6 buses have been found to reduce NO2 by 99.5 per cent. The city is also due to have its first 100% electric double decker buses operating in the city in 2019.

However, moving the full bus fleet to zero emission operation requires significant infrastructure and vehicle investment, and the technology for intensive bus operation across a range of urban and inter-urban route lengths is not proven or affordable, so we are planning to implement a zero emission fleet in partnership with bus operators by 2035 at the latest, with an ambition to work together to achieve this by 2030 if possible.