Congestion charges may be coming to Cardiff — expect a battle!

Cardiff – Image by Anil Joshi from Pixabay

Low emission zones are springing up around the UK like mushrooms. In addition to London, clean air zones have already been introduced in cities from Bath to Portsmouth, Birmingham to Glasgow, with plenty of additional councils running feasibility studies and what-have-you. And one city on that list is  home to plenty of WVS’s customers — Cardiff. On April 27th 2023, Cardiff Council gave the go-ahead to a consultation into a congestion charge system.

Now, just to be clear, there’s quite a few hoops that must be jumped through before anyone will be digging into their pocket. The Herald Wales article we cited above comments that:

Engagement with stakeholders is expected to begin April or May. This will help to identify the various options for consultation which could take place in late 2023.

The council has targeted the end of 2024 for a cabinet decision on a road user payment scheme, after which detailed design and all the associated planning can take place.

As the process lumbers forward, we can expect to see the same debates in Cardiff that have emerged in every other place where clean-air zones are being brought in. It’s a fundamental and often heated one that pitches environmental, health and quality of life concerns against cost of living crises and maintaining economic growth.

As usual in our blog, we’ll do our best to give both sides a fair shake. But first, let’s look at what the proposals might be.

What a Cardiff congestion charge might look like

We’re a long way from knowing the final form of any Cardiff congestion charge, but we do have some pointers.

  • The charge would probably apply both to visitors and residents.
    Although the Council’s 2020 transport white paper proposed that residents would be exempt from charges, on April 17th, the Council announced that residents probably would have to pay. Apparently, the Welsh Government stepped in and insisted on residents making a contribution.
  • However, residents might have a heavy discount on any charges.
    This would follow the model of London’s ULEZ zone.
  • A £2 per day charge has been suggested.
    This figure was given in the 2020 white paper as an example of what vehicles coming into Cardiff might have to pay.
  • Any charges probably wouldn’t come into effect until 2027.
    The number of intermediate steps mean that it will likely take a few years before the scheme is implemented.

How does the proposed scheme compare to other congestion/low-emission zones?

As noted, we’re a bit light on the details so far. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that the Council settles on a £2 per day figure. How does that compare to others?

The short answer is that it would be considerably less severe than some. The Central London congestion charge is an eye-watering £15 per day (with some exemptions and limited to busier times). The wider ULEZ is almost as expensive, costing drivers £12.50 per day for the most polluting vehicles — and that’s 24 hours a day. Well, everything costs more in London, but charges are steep elsewhere too. Bristol’s most polluting cars pay £9 per day, for example. In Birmingham, it’s £8 per day.

On the other hand, some cities have restricted fees to relatively small groups of road users  — Bath, for example, only charges:

taxis, private hire vehicles, vans (including pick-ups and some camper vans), light goods vehicles, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles that do not meet the required emission standards.

It’s also worth noting that part of Cardiff Council’s plan is to plough money into public transport alternatives, such as introducing £1 bus fares.

Next Time…

So that’s what we know about what’s on the table. Next time, we’ll start delving into the pros and cons of congestion charging. As a sneak preview, it turns out that each viewpoint is supported by perfectly reasonable people with views worth listening to… imagine that!

In the meantime, just a reminder that WVS is just 7 miles from the centre of Cardiff. We are an independent garage specialising in the VW group marques, including Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT. WVS provides services, repairs and MOTs, delivering a main dealer level of care at affordable prices. To book your vehicle in, or for any enquiries, get in touch.