Commenting on the announcement by Westminster City Council that it is to begin a trial of charging diesel drivers 50% more to park, RAC public affairs manager Nick Lyes said:
“Adding a 50% parking price surcharge to diesel vehicles is unlikely to make any difference to London’s air quality and will simply be seen as another charge on motorists. Westminster’s approach is also arguably not evidence based as the surcharge takes no account of how much a vehicle is used and therefore how much it is contributing to the air quality problem – which calls into question the council’s assertion that they are applying a ‘polluter pays’ approach to tackling the problem.
“Without question tough action needs to be taken to improve air quality – our concern is that this blanket approach that applies to all diesel cars, regardless of how polluting they are, is simply the wrong one. The problem needs to be looked at in its entirety with any measures fairly applied across all contributors to poor quality air, be they private or business motorists, private hire firms or bus operators.
“Parking surcharges appear to be a fashionable way for some councils to penalise diesel drivers. Merton Council, for example, is the latest London borough seeking to unfairly impose a retrospective diesel surcharge to residents’ parking permits – without any evidence to suggest it will improve air quality.
“Motorists are keen to be part of the solution in ending the blight of poor quality air, and research from the latest RAC Report on Motoring shows that 55% of motorists would support charging the most polluting vehicles for entering an area with poor air quality.
“The RAC supports measures such as the Ultra-Low Emission Zone which is evidence-led and focuses on targeting the most polluting vehicles. Councils must also start to look at local measures to get traffic moving - some of the worst local air pollution will also be where congestion is at its worst. Additionally, policymakers must be seen to lead by example, so ambitious targets to replace bus and taxis fleets with cleaner, modern vehicles must be a priority. And finally, the Treasury must provide motorists with incentives to switch - changes to VED rates for new vehicles this year unfortunately send the wrong message to motorists who want to do their part by purchasing a modern, low emission vehicle.”