Tolls for classics?

Tolls for classics?

As well as charges to enter city centres, drivers of older vehicles could be facing tolls to drive on busy stretches of road in a bid to tackle air pollution. The Welsh Government recently asked for the public’s views in a survey about some motorists paying to use the A470 around Pontypridd and the M4 around Newport, which is Wales’ busiest stretch of motorway. The survey ran until August 31, by which time 3017 responses had been completed. It discussed charging drivers of pre-Euro 4 petrol cars (usually registered before 2006) and pre-Euro 6 diesels (usually registered before September 2015) to use the two stretches of road. The tolls would begin in January 2023 and range from £3 to £8 for cars, with light goods vehicles liable for a fee from £6 to £12.50.

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At this stage, it remains unclear if vehicles in the historic tax class would be exempted from the tolls in the same way as in city centres but, in any case, it would still leave a huge number of cars we’d consider to be classics, or modern classics, facing charges. The survey results have yet to be revealed but a Welsh Government spokesperson has said that there are currently no plans for extra charges on Wales’ roads despite people being asked for their views. The Welsh Government has declared a climate emergency and has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, with the spokesman saying that the question was included in the survey “ line with our legal obligations to reduce harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide.”

Nevertheless, there’s been quite a backlash. Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said that road charging would be a “...kick in the teeth for hardworking people and would hit the poorest in our society.” Critics have also suggested that, with plans to build an M4 relief road scrapped and no viable alternative route (such as with the M6/ M6 Toll near Birmingham), the problem and the pollution would just be moved elsewhere and possibly into residential areas. In addition, the survey itself has been questioned.

Public Affairs and Relations Consultant Alexander Phillips, who was one of the people surveyed at the end of July, took to Twitter to suggest that a very specific set of answers had to be given to unlock questions on charging and some respondents won’t have seen them. Whether the plans ever come to fruition amid such criticism remains to be seen but the fact that such discussions are even being entertained will be enough to worry owners of older vehicles as to what the future holds.

While it costs to cross some bridges or use some tunnels in the UK, currently the only major toll road is the M6 Toll, which was built to alleviate congestion. The Wales proposals would be the first time, outside city centres, that older vehicles would be charged to use major roads based on their emissions and would set a worrying new precedent. Combined with the rollout of E10 petrol, drivers of such vehicles would be forgiven for thinking they’re being unfairly hit in the pocket.

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