COMMENT: Better public transport alternatives are needed in Portsmouth to get people out of their cars

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Own a petrol car registered before 2006 or a diesel motor made prior to 2015? Well, be prepared to see a sizeable dent in your bank balance if you intend to keep on driving in Portsmouth.

Today we reveal how a charge on motorists could be up to £20 a day, depending on what they drive. 

City council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson says it is ‘highly likely’ that the fee will be imposed by the government come October, via the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs enforcing a clean air zone on Portsea Island.

But will it deter people from using their cars, which is the whole point? People need to get around and for many the car is still the best and most convenient way – despite the high costs.  

If all the new charge does is hit people in the pocket and not take traffic off the road, then it will have failed. What is needed is better public transport options so that people will be prepared to step from behind the wheel and instead  board a bus, a train or perhaps even a water taxi.

Affordable alternatives are also needed for those who do get forced off the road by being unable to pay  the charge.

Another concern is that such a high daily clean air tariff will affect existing local businesses and put off new ones from relocating here.

As Cllr Vernon-Jackson points out, fewer jobs means more people living in poverty, leading to worse health – a situation the clean air zone is supposed to be trying to address.

It remains to be seen whether he and his colleagues will be able to cut the charge for people on low incomes, or indeed offer any reduction for special cases who need their cars for essential use. 

If it is imposed on the council and there is no cash in the budget to soften the blow, then the choice will be stark. Pay up to £20 a day,  buy a newer model or ditch the car keys.