In a bid to cut pollution, motorists in one city are being fined for leaving their engines running while parked – but taxi drivers are complaining that they need to keep warm as they wait for fares.
Brighton and Hove City Council has steered away from clean air zones and other charging areas in a bid to cut pollution and has focused on greener buses. The authority says air quality continues to improve across the city as a result, with nitrogen dioxide levels falling by a third in the past ten years, and along the city’s main bus routes, it is down by 40% to 60%.
The council has put this down to cleaner diesel and hybrid buses and, as it continues to improve air quality, it has introduced £40 fines for all drivers who leave their engines running while they are parked.
The Argus reports that from January 2, drivers who leave their engines running while in a parking bay, taxi rank and other parts of the road have received a £40 fine. The fines do not apply to drivers waiting in traffic, but bus drivers who will be stationary for more than a minute are also being told to switch off.
The council says the aim is to help improve the city’s air quality, and especially to help those suffering from long-term health conditions such as asthma. It will also help the council’s drive to become carbon neutral by 2030.
The authority launched the crackdown following research that “an idling engine can produce up to twice as many exhaust emissions as an engine in motion”.
Councillor Tim Rowkins, chairman of the city council’s environmental committee, said: “Improving the city’s air quality is extremely important, especially for those who suffer from long-term respiratory conditions like asthma and lung disease.
“Enforcing engine idling is something we hope will deter motorists from releasing harmful emissions unnecessarily. We’re asking those parked to switch off their engines and reduce air pollution.”
However, some of the city’s cabbies have complained that they have received £40 tickets for having their engines running as they try to keep warm while they wait for fares at taxi ranks – even though there are exemptions for driver wellbeing.
Brighton & Hove Cab Trade Association chairman Andrew Peters told the BBC: “I had a phone call from a driver who said he was on a rank in East Street at 6.30am and he was issued with a penalty notice for running his engine while trying to keep warm.
“The council is going to have to have common sense.”
Mr Peters told BBC Radio Sussex: “I had a driver who told me that he had a conversation with one of the wardens, and he had no idea about the exceptions.”
Instead of an over-zealous campaign to target drivers, it seems that at least some of the cabbies may have been fined as a result of a misunderstanding.
Cllr Rowkins told the BBC: “We take a common-sense approach to enforcement so there are exemptions including those which take into consideration severe weather and the health and safety of the driver or passengers.”
But this does not mean that taxi drivers are exempt.
Cllr Rowkins added: “Taxi drivers seen idling their engines whilst stationary at a taxi rank with their windows open or vacant from their vehicle would be expected to comply with the instruction to turn off their engine, since the defence of keeping warm would not apply.”
Brighton and Hove has not introduced clean air zones seen in other cities in which drivers of older, more-polluting vehicles are charged for entering the zones.
Instead, it introduced a low-emission zone in 2015 in which only Euro 5 emission standard buses can enter. This will be raised to Euro 6 this year. Although it does not affect taxis, the policy to ban engine idling at taxi ranks was introduced at the same time.