Bitesized Blighty: April 12, 2019

Toyosi Adebayo  Follow

  • As drivers in New York city strain under plans to introduce Congestion pricing by 2020, Leeds and Birmingham are two major cities in the UK on the cusp of rolling out a clean air zone (CAZ), within which drivers of the most polluting vehicles would have to pay to drive. London already had a non-charging low emission zone covering most of Greater London, but tighter emission standards were introduced for central London from 8 April, under the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). It is set to be expanded to cover most of Greater London from 25 October 2021. Dozens of other cities are also considering establishing the CAZ in their city and town centres. Under the new scheme, drivers can be charged up to £100 a day to enter areas where councils believe the air to be toxic. All new cars in the UK will be "effectively zero emission" by 2040, under further plans to tackle air pollution. The government is under pressure to bring forward this deadline and ban all sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2032, after a report by a parliamentary committee described its plans as "vague and unambitious".
  • Transport union are threatening a rail strike, which will be the first national rail strike for more than two decades, in escalating row over staff pensions. The threat came after transport giant Stagecoach was banned from bidding on three rail franchises — including Southeastern serving London’s most crowded routes — after allegedly failing to meet pension rules. Business tycoon Sir Richard Branson said he was devastated and baffled by the government's decision and warned that as a result, Virgin trains could be gone from the UK as soon as November this year. The last national strikes to close the UK railways took place in the 1990s and it caused months of chaos, costing businesses and the UK economy tens of millions of pounds a day.
  • Hammersmith Bridge has been closed to motorists indefinitely after safety checks revealed "critical faults” and complaints from local residents that even walking on the bridge felt like "dancing with death". The council had previously threatened to close the bridge after its strict rule - allowing only one bus to cross at a time - was broken. The Transport for London (TfL) said it is unable to repair the bridge due to "budget cuts". However, a government spokesperson said: "Between 2015 and 2021 the government is providing £11bn of support to TfL." adding that "This funding is helping to deliver key projects like Crossrail, the Thameslink and London Bridge improvements, and our work around airport expansion". The Hammersmith and Fulham Council who authorised the closure, issued a statement saying it was left with "no choice" but to shut the 132-year-old bridge until refurbishment costs could be met. The statement went on to explain that the bridge is a Grade II-listed structure which was never designed for modern traffic, adding that the council was sorry for that disruption, but must put the safety of the public first. 

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