Almost 100,000 drivers in and around Bristol have been warned they will have to pay a charge from next month for driving into the city centre, Bristol Live can reveal.
The drivers were all sent letters during the course of last week after triggering new cameras installed at the entrances to the soon-to-begin Clean Air Zone scheme during three weeks of September.
Bristol City Council said that approximately 95,000 letters had been sent out, advising drivers that their vehicles were too polluting to pass through the Clean Air Zone – which comes into force on November 28 – without incurring a charge.
Bristol’s Clean Air Zone: Everything we know about the scheme a month before it comes into force
The council tested the cameras and systems for three weeks during September, which means they ‘caught’ an average of more than 4,500 individual drivers every day making a journey in a vehicle that will soon be liable for a charge – albeit drivers who were making the trip knowing that it would not – yet – incur a daily charge or fine.
However, the council has explained that it only sent one letter per driver – and multiple trips into the Clean Air Zone by the same driver in the same vehicle did not trigger more than one letter – so it is extremely likely that thousands more trips would have been liable for the daily charge.
Those charges will see drivers of private petrol and diesel cars, taxis and vans and trucks under 3.5 tonnes that are liable for the charge charged £9 for a day, and HGVs over 3.5 tonnes, buses and coaches charged £100 for a day.
The council did not provide a breakdown of which vehicles and charges the recipients of the guidance letters had been photographed driving into the CAZ, but if all of them were smaller vehicles liable for the £9 charge, it would have netted the council £285,000 a week, if the same number go through the cameras once the CAZ scheme begins for real on November 28.
If just ten per cent of the vehicles clocked on the new CAZ cameras were the larger HGVs or coaches, then had the trial been real, it would have netted the council more than £570,000 a week in CAZ charges – a figure which could well be higher, given that drivers were only sent the warning letter once, even if they made multiple trips into the CAZ during the three week test period.
The idea behind the Clean Air Zone is that those polluting vehicles that are liable to pay the charges won’t make the journey into the city centre zone after November 28 – thus leading to cleaner air for areas from Temple Meads to the Cumberland Basin – so only time will tell how effective the Clean Air Zone is at reducing the number of polluting vehicles both inside the zone and on the roads around the outside of the zone, and how many daily charges are paid, and how many fines are dished out.
The council has also admitted that ‘a very small number’ of the 95,000 were sent in error, sometimes to people who live hundreds of miles away and have never visited Bristol before, as glitches in the way the new cameras and computer systems record number plates.
One driver on Merseyside said he was told by the council ‘many’ people had complained that they’d received the letter in error.
To keep up-to-date with the latest South Bristol news, join our community of subscribers with my South Bristol newsletter here.