The council initiative aims to improve air quality in the city centre and discourage drivers – particularly those in high-polluting vehicles – from entering the heart of Birmingham.
However, that has now come to an end, meaning charges will now be enforced.
Every road inside the A4540 Middleway ring road is included.
The Middleway, which encircles Birmingham city centre, is not included, but the A38 and its tunnels are, along with areas such as New Street, Digbeth, Lee Bank and Ladywood.
Affected postcodes include B1, B10, B12, B15, B16, B18, B19, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, B7 and B9.
More than 300 signs have been put up around the area to tell motorists when they are entering the zone, while 67 Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras will read registration plates of vehicles entering and leaving.
Those with high-polluting vehicles will have to pay due to the higher levels of nitrogen dioxide emitted.
That includes anyone with diesel vehicles built before 2015 and petrol models built prior to 2006, along with electric, hydrogen fuel cell and hybrid electric vehicles.
The charges are:
Cars, taxis and vans – £8
Buses, coaches and HGVs – £50
The fees renew at midnight each day (so if someone enters the zone at 11.50pm and leave 20 minutes later at 12.10am, they will have to pay for two days). However, motorists can enter the zone as many times as they like each day, and not have to pay for each journey.
There is no discount for entering each day, meaning a car driver could pay up to £40 per five-day working week, while lorry drivers could face a £250 bill over the same period.
The charges operate seven days a week, 365 days a year.
It will be the driver’s responsibility to pay as alerts will not be sent out (the only warning is from roadside signs).
Motorists can pay on the Government clean air zone website or by calling the Government’s clean air zone team on 03000 298888.
Drivers have a 13-day payment window; six days before travel, on the day, or six days after.
Anyone who doesn’t pay within that time frame faces a £120 fine, which will be reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days of it arriving in the post.
Money raised will go towards funding sustainable transport measures, such as walking and cycling routes and public transport.
Emergency and armed forces vehicles won’t have to pay, along with some commercial vehicles operating at businesses within the zone. City centre firms can also apply for temporary permits for a maximum of two vehicles.
Some residents inside the zone, or commuters travelling in, can apply for a temporary exemption and/or financial incentives if they earn under £30,000 a year.
Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you to decide, but what’s irrefutable is that the numbers look extremely healthy: 111hp at 9,250rpm, 93nm at 6,500rpm and 166kg dry are promising and more so when you learn that it’s a full 18kg lighter than the outgoing Monster 821. Ducati has gone all Colin Chapman and added lightness by changing the chassis, shaving mass out of the engine, as well as altering the wheels and suspension. It only takes lifting it off the side stand to feel it; it’s astoundingly light on its feet. Naturally, it’s chock full of every ride-aiding electronic gizmo you could ever want, all of which comes as standard, including an up-down quickshifter.
Around town, what Ducati has taken away in weight makes for a ridiculously friendly ride. It’s easy to manoeuvre around and between other vehicles and obstacles thanks to a vastly increased steering angle and, paired with a very light clutch, indicators that cancel themselves and welcoming ergonomics, you’re free to just get on with making progress. Potholes, seams and imperfections in tarmac are vanquished by a very soft initial stroke through the forks and shock, and there are no sharp edges to work around on the throttle either. The cockpit has been shortened by 70mm, the footpeg height is judged to perfection and the stand-over width has been slimmed as much as possible to help you get both feet on the deck. The mirrors aren’t brilliant though, and occasionally you’ll be wishing for a half gear between 20 and 30mph, but it’s easily forgivable under the age-old guise of character. Still, the Monster doesn’t ever feel like hard work in this setting, so as far as hacking across cities goes, it’s got that part of the brief nailed.
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If you’re looking for a town to enjoy a splendid walk and a locally-sourced latte then you’ll struggle to find a better spot than Usk.
In fact if you go by the Sunday Times’ Best Place to Live guide you won’t find a better spot in the whole of Wales than the quaint Monmouthshire town.
There is a farmers’ market and plenty of independent shops and galleries as well as cafes vying to produce the best fare using local produce. And there’s nothing like enjoying all that goodness in the glorious afternoon sunshine while a 34-tonne articulated lorry chugs down the pavement towards you. Right?
Sometimes you might even get a clout around the ear while you’re walking down the town’s Bridge Street or while taking in the view from the bridge over the river.
“I have been hit multiple times,” said Kathryn Challenger, who has lived in the area all her life – moving from house to house in the same street. “But it gets worse – they come straight over the bridge here and crash into the walls,” she explains from her home directly opposite the bridge. “It’s dangerous and can be quite scary.”
We wait for what feels like five minutes to cross the road at the end of the bridge while two 30-tonne lorries carrying chickens pass by as well as three other equally large vehicles. As they pass the traffic comes to a standstill while the lorries try not to hit each other, the sides of the bridge, and even people’s homes.
Kathryn points: “Look at this one. There are chickens in there. Just a couple of weeks ago one like that went straight into the wall. Sometimes they don’t even realise they’ve done it. But imagine if someone had been walking there.”
The town actually has a ban on lorries coming through that weigh more than 7.5 tonnes – brought in more than 40 years ago after protests over environmental concerns, but issues remain – and residents believe it is due to poor enforcement. Difficulties pinpointing banned vehicles arise because some lorries that are over the weight limit are allowed through Usk to deliver goods.
“Some of them that do come over are ridiculous,” Kathryn added. “I think half of them aren’t allowed to be here – but what can we do?”
There are alternative routes. Lorry drivers could get off at the A449 at Raglan and travel via the A40 or head to the Coldra roundabout.
Residents pointed out that earlier in the pandemic when temporary traffic lights were used at the town’s main Bridge Street road to help social distancing on the narrow pavements – causing traffic pile-ups – considerably fewer lorries used the town as a “rat run”.
Liam Ellis, who drives a 34-tonne truck from Raglan transporting straw to farmers, said he is allowed to travel through Usk, but regularly receives abuse when he reaches Bridge Street – with some motorists refusing to move out of his way in protest.
“It’s not pleasant at all,” he said. “Sometimes I find myself waiting to be shouted at. There is clearly a problem because we’re allowed to drive through there but Usk is an absolute nightmare to drive through. But for me it’s the only logical route to get to my customers.
“A solution could be a separate foot bridge adjacent to the existing bridge so the road at the bridge can be widened for vehicles and people aren’t walking across there. I know it can’t carry on like this. Something needs to be done but I don’t know what the best solution is.”
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There are regular instances of lorries meeting at particularly narrow points in the road before incidents of road rage inevitably ensue. Lorries have also been entangled in scaffolding while resident Angela Colclough said she has seen vehicles “destroy hanging baskets” from the front of people’s homes.
“It’s ridiculous really and it can get you down at times,” she said. “Slowing the vehicles down might discourage them. Perhaps we could do with some speed bumps. The clear answer is another road around the town but I don’t think that will happen now. Why don’t they fine them heavily? If there is no punishment for banned lorries it’ll keep happening.”
Gwent Police said they would only be able to issue fines if they caught a vehicle going across a limit-restricted bridge and then took the vehicle to a weighbridge to find out how much it was over the restriction.
A group of residents and councillors set up a ‘lorry watch’ scheme intended to report banned vehicles to Monmouthshire County Council’s trading standards team but they said they’ve had minimal success in getting banned vehicles punished and have turned attention to “discouraging rather than preventing”.
Councillor Alec Leathwood, who helps run the scheme and was one of the first to get the weight limit introduced in the town more than 40 years ago, said: “I remember lying in the road in protest all those years ago. We’ve been battling for a long time but we’re still stuck with it.
“We had quite a few volunteers but people got fed up because vehicles were being reported and then not much was getting done. We’ve now accepted that there seems to be no way to keep heavy-goods vehicles out but we can discourage them.
“We try to do that by being visible while identifying vehicles that have no right to be here and by campaigning for changes to the road to make drivers aware they’re coming into a very different area. We could also do with better signage so lorry drivers know what the restrictions are well before they get to Usk – not when it’s too late.
“We just hope there isn’t a major incident. Fortunately, so far, we’ve got away with it.”
A spokesman for Monmouthshire council said: “There is advanced warning of the weight restriction on the A466 and A4042 so we would anticipate the majority of HGVs travelling through the town would have a requirement to do so – or are contravening the restriction in the full knowledge of their actions.”
Martin Sholl, the joint owner of Number 49 tea room in Bridge Street, said he’s noticed HGV traffic increasing significantly in recent weeks as lockdown restrictions eased. Authorised lorries that are above the weight limit deliver to the business but he said a balance needs to be struck.
“[Bridge Street] is back to being full again and the challenge we have is when two meet and the wing mirrors are well over the pavement either side,” he said. “It doesn’t just cause traffic issues – we’ve had people hit by them. The issue is this road is used as a thoroughfare and that is unlikely to change until there is better enforcement.”
He said he “isn’t convinced” the majority of lorries that pass through are authorised. “Many vehicles that come through from Blackwood don’t stop in Usk – they use it as a shortcut to the M50,” he added. “I’ve taken photos of some lorries and you just think to yourself: ‘My goodness, you should not be here’.”
Lynne Morgan at Bunnings of Usk builders’ merchants said: “I don’t think there was any point in the [weight limit] ban in the first place. We need the deliveries and I can’t see a solution that pleases everyone.”
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It is believed the theft specifically happened between midnight and around 2am.
The approximate value of the stolen goods is £100,000. At least three different models were stolen, they are:
• Xiaomi pro 2, which are mainly black in colour with a red rim around the front wheel
• SAB tech 9 pro, which are black in colour
• MS65 replicas, some of which are black and some white in colour.
Due to the volume of stolen items detectives believe those involved in the theft arrived in a vehicle and most likely were using a van or lorry to carry out the theft.
Detective Constable John Lumsden from Dalkeith Police Station, said: “Initial enquiries have been carried out into this theft and we continue to review CCTV from the premises and those nearby. I’d ask anyone with private or business CCTV covering the area to check their footage and provide any to us as soon as possible.
“Despite this happening overnight, I’d ask anyone who may have seen any suspicious vehicles in our around the premises in the early hours of Friday morning to report any sightings to officers. Due to the number of stolen goods it is likely that the suspects had to load these into a van or lorry over a period of time.
“I’d ask anyone who has recently been offered an e-scooter, or seen new advertisements online for selling sites matching the above description, to report this to officers so that we can investigate.”
Those with information should report this to Police Scotland on 101 and quote incident number 0616 of 11 June. An anonymous report can be given to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.