Oxford's 'zero-emissions zone' may be about to ban polluting vehicles

City centre traffic

Oxford is set to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles from the city centre, becoming what officials believe will be the world's first Zero Emission Zone.

Starting in 2020, six streets in Oxford's city center will be free of smaller gas-guzzling vehicles, including buses and taxis.

The City of Oxford Licensed Taxicab Association claims its drivers will be the hardest hit by the new rules, as it says many of its drivers will have to buy new zero-emissions vehicles that cost £60,000 each.

Oxford city centre now has illegally high levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which contributes to diseases and contributes to around 40,000 deaths in the United Kingdom every year.

The introduction of the zero emissions zone could see levels of nitrogen dioxide, much of which comes from traffic fumes, particularly diesel engines, fall by up to three quarters by 2035, the councils said.

But not everyone is keen on the idea, as it will involve costs of around £14 million ($18.5m) for taxi firms, bus operators, haulage firms and the council, who will be forced to replace their petrol and diesel vehicles with electric or hybrid ones.

Britain has said it will ban the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars from 2040, replicating plans by France and the mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens, who aim to ban diesel vehicles from their city centers by 2025.

While such a dramatic change in the city center's urban design may encourage less driving, thus less greenhouse gas emissions, the zone was inspired by a need to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide, most of which comes from auto exhaust, by three-fourths.

"The County and City together are proposing a staged Zero Emission Zone from 2020 in the city centre, with additional measures to bring down chronic pollution in St Clement's Street, High Street and St Aldate's". Anyone caught driving a non-electric vehicle can expect a fine of £60. "Everyone needs to do their bit - from national Government and local authorities, to businesses and residents - to end this public health emergency", Tanner added.

John Tanner, Oxford city council cabinet member for environment, said: "Toxic and illegal air pollution in the city centre is damaging the health of Oxford's residents".

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