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Explainer: Under the new plan, could motorists be charged for driving through gridlocked cities and towns?

The Government’s approval of a strategy to reduce transport demand in Ireland and reduce congestion in urban areas is a bold attempt to end car dependency.

Public transport is the worst example, while active forms of transport such as walking and cycling all too often result in people risking their lives in spaces where the air quality is not what it should be.

The level of congestion inevitably means that motorists maneuvering through our major cities and towns will likely face new fees in 2030 designed to reduce the incentive to own the private car. The strategy allows local authorities to decide what form they could take – congestion pricing, entry fees into low emission zones (LEZs) or clean air zones (CAZs).

Such measures are becoming the norm in parts of the UK – particularly London – and Europe and have led to a major shift in transport trends, although they face fierce resistance in some areas.

CAZs are areas where certain types of vehicles must comply with emissions standards or face a fine. LEZs charge drivers of “non-compliant private passenger vehicles” a daily fee or a penalty fee.

In London, most vehicles, including cars and vans, must meet Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) emission standards or their drivers must pay a daily fee for driving within the zone, which is 12.50 for most vehicle types £14.60, including cars, motorcycles and vans, and £100, €116.77 for heavier vehicles, including trucks and buses or coaches.

Larger, congested Irish urban areas are likely to face a similar fate due to the emissions gap in our transport sector, which is legally required to halve its emissions by 2030. The analysis shows that this can be achieved if we continue as before – goal unattainable.

Beleaguered motorists could feel like they’re being forced off the road as a radical overhaul of car taxation is also being introduced

Failure to meet climate commitments could result in “non-compliance costs” – large EU fines – in the region of €3.5 billion by the end of the decade.

The environmental impact is independent of the increasing financial costs. In Greater Dublin, congestion is estimated to cost the economy 336 million in 2022. Social costs, including poor air quality and negative effects of stress, inactivity or absence from family or community.

The strategy is a series of 35 recommendations, with the onus being primarily on local authorities to adopt the recommendations appropriate to their areas. .

The 57 organizations, government bodies and experts who drew up the strategy were tasked with not advocating increases in fuel costs, while the measures are to be phased in as alternatives to private cars are introduced.

For beleaguered motorists it could look like they are being pushed off the road as, alongside a radical overhaul of car taxation, higher parking charges and the abolition of on-street parking are being introduced as road space is reallocated to pedestrians and cyclists.

The precise nature of these tax changes will be determined in a separate process, whether based on weight, distance traveled or the extent to which a vehicle is a source of pollution, while phasing out fossil fuel subsidies in this sector at EU level is negotiated.

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