THE proposal to impose charges on the drivers of high-polluting vehicles if they wish to travel through Leeds city centre will inevitably polarise opinion.
Many environmentally-conscious people will say this is a necessary consequence of the Paris climate change talks, which ended last weekend, while sceptics will claim that the Government’s proposal is the proverbial ‘thin end of the wedge’ and the precursor to the London congestion charge being rolled out across the UK.
Much will depend on the scheme’s implementation – and whether it can be effectively enforced without becoming a drain on the public purse. That remains to be seen, given that only a relatively small number of vehicles will come under the auspices of this clampdown. But this policy alone will not reduce levels of congestion, the big policy challenge in our resurgent West Yorkshire city. The continuing absence of any kind of rapid transit scheme, despite more than a decade of procrastination over the Supertram and Trolleybus schemes, continues to besmirch the reputation of Leeds, and any profit generated by this new scheme must be re-invested in the city’s creaking public transport network.
Surely a significant level of pollution was caused by Wednesday’s gridlock which was the consequence of two accidents on the M62. Both need to come up with better ways of keeping motorists on the move – there is no public transport alternative for many families – and even reprogramme traffic lights to prevent longer tailbacks and even more harmful pollutants being released into the city’s atmosphere.