RHA has slammed Bath City Council for launching its Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bath’s CAZ has gone live today (15 March), making it the first CAZ of its kind in England outside of London.

Daily charges will apply seven days a week, with non-Euro-6 trucks and coaches charged £100 a day and non-compliant mini-buses, taxis and vans charged £9 a day.

Automatic number plate recognition cameras have been installed on all roads leading into the zone. Vehicle number plates will be checked against a DVLA database and then motorists with non-compliant, chargeable vehicles – including those from outside the UK – must declare and pay for their journey at GOV.UK or they will receive a penalty charge notice.

Duncan Buchanan, RHA policy director, said: “The launch should have been delayed, at the very least. With lockdown, Bath is probably not exceeding air quality targets right now anyway, and it is questionable how much trucks impact on the city’s air quality.

“Economic recovery from the pandemic will take time and now is not the right time to punish operators and other businesses.”

Buchanan also argued that the design of the zone impacts on through-traffic by including parts of the A4 and A36.

“It drags in traffic which is not heading for the centre of Bath but which gets charged for skirting around the city on through roads. That is a lot of vehicle owners paying when they have no intention of entering Bath.

“In addition it has not taken into account the age profile of Euro-5 trucks, forcing the premature scrapping of these fleets,” he said.

Councillor Dine Romero, leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “We know this is difficult time for businesses, but we’ve gone ahead with the zone during the pandemic because this is a pressing public health issue. However, we are working with residents and businesses to help them replace polluting vehicles with cleaner ones and there is significant financial and practical help available.”

Andrea Lee, clean air campaigner at ClientEarth, called for the government to help support businesses transition to cleaner vehicles.

She said: “It’s important to remember that these schemes are put in place for a reason: to protect people’s health. Toxic air affects virtually every organ in the body. Road transport is the biggest source of illegal pollution in our cities and CAZs are proven to be the most effective way to quickly reduce this pollution.

“Bath and other cities are stepping up to the challenge so it is essential that the UK government does everything it can to support them and help people and businesses – particularly those on low incomes and small businesses – move to cleaner forms of transport as quickly as possible.”