A decision to turn three of Bedford’s bus lanes into exclusive routes for ultra-low emission vehicles has been delayed until September, a meeting heard.
The experimental ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) lanes would still allow diesel-powered buses – and possibly high emission motorbikes – but taxis and most hybrid cars will receive a penalty charge if they don’t make the grade.
Cllr Sue Oliver told the climate change committee that ULEVS could cost £2,000 a month for taxi drivers to hire, and members of the public need to be told about the difference between hybrids and ULEVs.
Labour group leader Cllr Oliver (Lab, Kempston North) said: “I would suggest that we really need to make the public aware because a lot of people will be considering, with their next car, to buy something greener.
“Hybrids may not make the grade,” she said.
A report to councillors confirmed that “some hybrid vehicles will qualify as ULEV – but most will not.”
The committee heard that members of the public would need to check a Government website at www.gov.uk/co2-and-vehicle-tax-tools to find out if their car makes the grade.
The council has met with taxi drivers following a meeting of the licensing committee when concerns and objections were raised about removing the automatic right of taxi drivers to use sections of Ampthill Road; Bedford Road, in Kempston and Kingsway.
Jon Shortland, the council’s chief officer for planning and infrastructure
development, said: “The taxi drivers expressed agreement with measures to tackle climate change but had concerns over the timing of this proposal.
“We’ve therefore agreed that these measures will not be introduced until the completion of the engineering works on the Ampthill Road, which is expected to be in September 2021.”
A fear from taxi drivers was that they would be forced to join traffic jams on Ampthill Road caused by the roadworks.
He told the committee that the experiment will cost £30,000 to implement but a decision has not yet been made about how long it will last. It could last for 18 months. Taxi drivers have asked for a three-month trial.
Cllr Charles Royden (Lib Dem, Brickhill), the council’s deputy mayor and portfolio holder for environment, highways and transport said the taxi drivers were “responsible, and very professional in their approach.”
“It’s important that we as a council do all that we can to encourage vehicles which are environmentally friendly,” he said.
“We do want to be seen to be heading in the right direction.
“We want to give out a message to people that we are supporting the introduction of low carbon technology and this is one step toward that,” he added.
Cllr Royden will be making the final decision, the committee members were told before they noted the report.
By David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter