The Department for Transport has awarded grants to a total of £40 million to cities across the UK, in a move to encourage the spread of environmentally friendly vehicles and driving. The cities of London, Bristol, Nottingham, and Milton Keynes will all receive a share of the total incentive.
Launched in 2014, the Go Ultra Low City Scheme offered local authorities the opportunity to bid for a portion of a £35 million fund by submitting an action plan for making their streets greener and encouraging the use of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs). In their proposals, bidders were asked to highlight ways of improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions, as well as providing opportunities for businesses to grow.
The bids included not only plans for changes to infrastructure, for instance more charge points for electric vehicles, and measures like opening bus lanes to ULEVs, but for investment in skills, training, and future development. Community involvement, communication, and initiatives like park and ride schemes are all essential to the creation of green cities.
London’s share of the award is £13 million, which will be used for ‘Neighbourhoods of the future’ projects across several boroughs. Streets in Hackney will feature chargers built in to street lamps, while Harrow’s low emission zone will benefit ULEV drivers by offering parking spaces and giving them priority in traffic. The ultimate aim is to increase sales and use of electric vehicles across the capital.
In Milton Keynes, recipient of £9 million, an Electric Vehicle Experience Centre will answer questions about electric vehicles, and offer short term hire so drivers can try before they buy.
The city of Bristol receives £7 million to bring ULEV drivers carpool lanes and free parking, as well as more charge points. There are also plans for a lease scheme, which will allow drivers to experience an electric vehicle and its benefits.
The remaining £6 million goes to Nottinghamshire and Derby. It will be used to install charging stations, and to fund discount parking and bus lane access for ULEVs.
A further £5 million is shared between projects in Dundee, Oxford, York, and the North East. Dundee plans to install charging hubs for commuters, making longer journeys possible, while, in York, the money will fund park and ride stations which make use of solar power.
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As well as benefiting road users and pedestrians, the proposals also represent good news for the motor trade. With bigger and better incentives encouraging drivers to choose an electric or hybrid vehicle, sales of these cars is expected to rise, creating more jobs at factories as production increases. There will also be more funding for research and development, to improve problem areas such as battery life and weight. The next few years should see many more electric cars on trade plates.
Owners of new and used cars with green credentials already receive a range of benefits, from free parking for electric vehicles to a cheaper insurance policy. Improvements in transport infrastructure and vehicle technology should encourage more drivers to go green.
It is hoped that, if cities make changes and improvements locally, the benefits will also be felt at a national level.