The Liberal Democrats want to see local councils given greater powers to create ultra-low-emission zones (ULEZ) and to deal with traffic offences in an effort to improve air quality and congestion.

In a future transport-motion approved at this week’s party conference in Brighton, the Lib Dem’s said that current levels of road congestion had reached “crisis point” and that Britain’s urban areas “regularly breach EU limits for NOx, which has a severe effect on health”.

If other major cities were to follow London’s lead and implement an ULEZ, operators could be forced to run Euro-6 vans and lorries into the likes of Birmingham and Liverpool or face daily penalty charges.

Proposed penalties for London’s ULEZ, due to come into force by 2020 at the latest but potentially as early as 2018, are set at £12.50 per day for cars and vans and £100 per day for HGVs, buses and coaches.

The Lib Dem motion also reiterates the party's ambition for a zero-carbon Britain by 2050. It also condemns the failure of both Labour and Conservative governments to provide long-term investment in robust and sustainable transport infrastructure.

Modern transport development must put the “protection of the environment at its heart”, it said.

At the conference, Lib Dem party members called for a comprehensive government transport strategy, based on the recommendations of the independent National Infrastructure Commission.

This would include a number of measures that could benefit or impact the freight sector, including:

  • Adoption of further measures to encourage sustainable transport including the promotion of ultra-low emission vehicles, and the inclusion of biofuels as part of the renewable fuels obligation.
  • Government to invest urgently in our electricity infrastructure in order to serve electric vehicles of the future.
  • Greater powers for traffic commissioners to enforce higher standards from operators.
  • Investment in infrastructure to encourage rail freight rather than movement of freight by road.