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Diesel drivers to be hit with higher taxes to fuel govt clampdown on air pollution

Hannah Uttley
The government will ban the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040 (TomasSereda via Getty Images)
The government will ban the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040 (TomasSereda via Getty Images)

Drivers of new diesel vehicles are set to be hit with higher taxes as the government commits to reduce pollution in towns and cities across the UK.

In its plan to tackle air pollution published on Wednesday, the government confirmed that among other proposals it will ban the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.

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In order to pay for air quality measures, the Department for Transport said all changes will be funded by hiking taxes for new diesel vehicles purchased before 2040 or “through reprioritisation within existing departmental budgets”. Further details on tax rates will be announced by the government later this year.

Owners of older diesel vehicles are also expected to face charges or restrictions in up to 29 council areas where illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide have been identified under the government’s plan.

While the UK’s air quality has improved significantly in recent decades, an analysis of over 1,800 of Britain’s major roads showed that a 4% of these are due to breach legal pollution limits for NO2, with 33 of these roads outside of London.

Councils will receive £255 million to implement their plans, in addition to the £2.7 billion already being invested by the government in areas such as cycling and walking and ultra low emission vehicles.

In May the Conservatives claimed that diesel drivers would receive compensation to encourage them to scrap or retrofit highly polluting vehicles.

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However, the Lib Dems have accused the government of “betraying” diesel drivers by instead introducing a consultation on a ‘targeted scrappage scheme’, which will see certain groups of drivers most in need of support provided with incentives to switch vehicle.

“By scrapping the scrappage scheme the government have U-turned on their offer a life line to the millions of owners of diesel cars up and down the country. This is a betrayal to drivers everywhere,” the Liberal Democrat’s transport representative Jenny Randerson said.

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“The Liberal Democrats have called for all new diesel sales to end by 2025 and a scrappage scheme to help drivers convert to greener vehicles. We are serious about fighting air pollution, this government is not.”

Other changes suggested in the Clean Air Strategy include the removal of speed bumps and altered traffic light phasing, proposals which have been met with concern by road safety campaigners.

David Davies, executive director for the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: “There may be a small number of specific locations where this is justified. In fact, well designed and well-maintained humps and other devices can smooth traffic flows and keep speeds down, which should improve air quality.

“There is a case for spending more on these measures, not ripping them out.”