Congestion charge considered for Cardiff to improve air quality

Cardiff could mimic London and introduce a congestion charge for motorists if a feasibility study determines a clean air zone is needed in the city.


A report to be discussed by Cardiff Council’s ruling cabinet next Wednesday, March 28th, recommends approving the feasibility study following legal direction from Welsh Government.

The report states that “poor air quality is now considered the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK”, and that there is “clear scientific evidence” linking exposure to pollution to reduced life expectancy.

One of the proposals listed in a survey on Cardiff’s Transport & Clean Air Green Paper is the introduction of a clean air zone:

“A Clean Air Zone is normally an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality.  In some cities this involves the introduction of restrictions or charges on polluting vehicles the zone. Benefits would include lower pollution, reduced congestion, and increased funds to give people a realistic transport alternative to using their cars.”

No mention is made in the survey of the possible cost to motorists of the congestion charge, however the London Congestion Charge is an £11.50 daily charge for driving a vehicle within the charging zone between 07:00 and 18:00, Monday to Friday. 

Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Transport, Cllr Caro Wild says on the front page of the survey:

“We all know Cardiff’s transport network needs to change. Too many of us have been stuck in traffic trying to drop off our children, or late for work because the bus didn’t turn up, and whilst a growing number want to walk or cycle, the facilities to do so are often inadequate. 

There is also now a more alarming and pressing matter. Pollution levels in Cardiff are now damaging our health. Improving the air we breathe has become a matter of life or death. The latest figures from Public Health Wales suggest that the number of death per year that can be attributed to poor air quality has increased to over 225 across Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.  

With Cardiff growing faster than any other UK city outside of London and projected to grow by more than every other local authority in Wales combined it is essential that action be taken before it is too late.”

The legal direction received from Welsh Government means that by June 30th 2019, Cardiff Council must identify options for delivering compliance with legal limits for nitrogen dioxide in the shortest possible time. Three cities in England (Bristol, Greater Manchester and Sheffield) have also received direction from the UK government to undertake feasibility studies of this nature but with different timeframes, whilst Birmingham, Leeds and Nottingham have all been instructed to introduce Clean Air Zones.

Cllr Caro Wild said:

“A Clean Air Zone is something we might very well need to consider if, as we have been directed, we are to deliver compliance with legal limits for air quality in the shortest possible time.”


“What is important to us is to have a conversation with the people of Cardiff about how changes might affect them, so we can try and ensure fairness and equality is central to decision making. We would urge people to join in the conversation around our green paper and have their voices heard.” 

The Council has launched a Green Paper on Clean Air in the city and is urging residents to take part in the conversation about the big ideas that could shape the future of Cardiff’s transport system and the way the city could look and feel in the future.

Some of the ideas being proposed and measured in the survey are:

  • Developing a bus fleet that is powered by electricity or hydrogen and so does not contribute to poor air quality. 
  • Working to increase the number of 20mph traffic zones across the city.
  • Workplaces could be required to pay for each parking space they provided. Income from the levy would be used to improve public transport options.
  • Work to develop a comprehensive network of charging points and hydrogen supply to encourage ownership of low carbon vehicles.

The Transport & Clean Air Green Paper is available to view on www.cardiff.gov.uk/transportgreenpaper and a series of questions have been asked in each section to get feedback from residents on the proposals and ideas before the consultation closes on 1st July.

How you can get involved – join the conversation by: