Bangkok suffers from severe air pollution (PM2.5), with especially high pollution values during November 2019 to March 2020 and 72 per cent of these emissions are caused by the transport sector – particularly by diesel vehicles. Thailand, supported by the GIZ’s facilitating the development of ambitious transport mitigation action plans (TRANSfer III) project, will take action on ambient air pollution and climate change by implementing the Bangkok Clean Air Zone.
In order to gain first-hand experience on Low Emission Zones and Congestion Charging, the GIZ TRANSfer project organised a study tour to Berlin and London in February 2020. The tour was joined by decision-makers from the Transport Ministry and the Bangkok City Administration, including Transport Ministry permanent-secretary Chaiwat Thongkamkoon and circled around the topics of Congestion Charging and Bus Network Reforming.
Why Berlin and London?
Roughly 15 years ago, Berlin faced similarly big problems with particulate matter emissions from transport and addressed these by introducing a Clean Air Zone within the inner-city ring line. Diesel vehicles without a particulate filter, from this point on, were no longer allowed within this zone, covering roughly 450 kilometres of road. As a result of the policy, 60 per cent of PM2.5 and 60 per cent of black carbon emissions from vehicles were reduced. As of 2018, Berlin has enacted its first Mobility Law, which for the first time in German history creates a legal ground to give priority to public transport, cycling and pedestrians. Concrete measures include the expansion of parking management from currently 40 to 100 per cent of all areas, a fare increase of 3 EUR / hour, the reduction of public transport fare to only 50 Euro/ month, the build-up of a comprehensive cycling highway network, and a complete electrification of public transport until 2030.
London aims to accommodate 80 per cent of all trips by foot, cycling or public transport in 2041 (currently 63 per cent). One of London´s major strategies to achieve this goal is to improve public transport services by reducing excess waiting time, overcrowding and accessibility. In order to realise the strategy, it is estimated that 3.3 billion GBP / year will be needed. Improvement of public transport will be paid from the congestion charge revenue. The congestion charge was introduced in 2003 with the aim to reduce traffic congestion and raise revenue to re-invest in transport infrastructure.
After talks with government officials and experts as well as site visits, the study tour culminated with a workshop to design the Bangkok Clean Air Zone, placing special emphasis on the distribution of air pollution and congestion in Bangkok as well as equity issues and public transport availability. These topics are high on the Thai Governments agenda. GIZ had supported the Thai Government throughout the last year in modelling different scenarios on what the Clean Air Zone could look like in terms of size, pricing, impact and exemptions. Based on these modelling excercises, the workshop looked into the analysis of social equity aspects and public transport availability within the selected zone, with the aim to balance impact in terms of air quality improvements and social equity aspects. The workshop also discussed accompanying measures, such as increasing public transport availability within the zone or decreasing public transport tariffs for certain groups, using the revenue from the transportation charges. A good balance between impact and social equity is of special importance to the Thai Government in order to not put an additional burden on low-income households but still achieve a significant air-quality improvement.
TRANSfer will be supporting the Thai Transport Ministry and the Bangkok City Administration in the next steps of designing the Clean Air Zone for Bangkok and driving the bus network reform in the Thai Clean Mobility Programme.
“Environmental problems and climate change are a global agenda and a concern to everyone. Thailand realises this and intends to tackle these problems seriously. A major take away from this trip is the lesson learnt and the idea of implementing congestion charging in the area of Bangkok, we must use the momentum of air pollution crisis, particularly PM 2.5 and accompany its implementation with the improvement of public bus services and non-motorised transport and also other transport demand management measures.”
Mr. Chaiwat Thongkamkoon, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Transport