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While politicians, the car industry and motorists in The Netherlands and Germany are arguing about driving bans in the major cities, the British university city of Oxford is setting a good example. Oxford City Council and the County of Oxfordshire have published the definitive plans for the first “Zero Emission Zone” (ZEZ). The historical center of this city with its 155,000 inhabitants should be emission-free by this year. In The Netherlands many municipalities are striving for an emission-free city center by 2025.

The year wherein Oxford makes a difference

“2020 will be a year of crisis for our climate and our entire future,” said councillor Tom Hayes. “For the sake of everyone in Oxford and especially for the lungs of our children, we must get rid of the harmful air that we’re all breathing in. Oxford’s zero-emission zone will help make 2020 the year when we will make a difference.”

The new proposals envisage a red zone that covers a small part of the city center. This will be applicable to all vehicles as of December 2020. For the rest of the city center, a green zone is to be established from 2021 and 2022 onwards. Emission-free vehicles will be allowed to drive here free of charge. Vehicles that meet the standards of London’s low-emission zones will be subject to a levy.

The ZEZ is also expected to contribute to the overall reduction of air pollution in towns and villages throughout Oxfordshire. After all, buses and taxis and other vehicles which are required to be in the heart of Oxford also serve towns and villages across the county. “With our enhanced zero-emission zone and the introduction of hundreds of dedicated charging stations, our medieval town is leading the electric vehicle revolution,” Hayes stated.

© Crown Copyright 2019 OS Licence 0100023343

The main points of the latest proposals

The proposed measure of the city council consists of a number of resolutions. The most important of these are:

  • Introduction of a levy on vehicles in the red zone between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Vehicles that do not meet the criteria pay £10 to enter the city center.
  • A reduction on the levy for all holders of blue environmental stickers that enter this zone before December 2024.
  • Exceptions for companies that are registered in the red zone will apply up until December 2024, then a reduction is applicable until December 2030.
  • A 90% reduction for residents living in the zone will be applicable up until December 2030.
  • For buses and the renowned Oxford licensed black taxis operating within the planned zero-emission limit, implementation schedules have been agreed for zero-emission fleets operating throughout Oxford. That’s why they are not subject to the levy.

The parties are holding informal consultations in the council this month on the rates of the charges, reductions, etc. If all parties are in agreement, the system could come into force as early as December 2020.

Oxford’s zero emission zone is similar to the environmentally-friendly system in place in London which is aimed at reducing emissions. Other cities in the UK also want to improve air quality by imposing driving bans. It should be noted that Italian cities such as the capital Rome have had red and green zones in their historic centers for many years.