Motorists in a city steeped in automotive history face a new scrappage threat, with financial incentives set to encourage drivers to give up their cars and use public transport instead. Under a UK first trial due to begin next year, drivers in Coventry could receive as much as £3000 a year in vouchers towards alternative methods of travel.

Developed by Transport for West Midlands and the West Midlands Combined Authority, the project is designed to get polluting cars off the road, ease traffic congestion and improve air quality. Motorists willing to give up their cars will be able to apply for the trial scheme later in the year and, if selected, will receive between £1500 and £3000 worth of mobility credits to spend using a smartphone app or Swift travel card. These can be used for public transport, taxis, bike shares or a car club.

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said: “Instead of asking people to trade in their old car for a new one, we are offering them credits to try something new – such as join a car share scheme or take the bus or train.

“Not only will people be saving money on the cost of running and maintaining their cars, but they will also help the region ease traffic congestion and improve air quality in the fight against climate change. This will make a considerable difference to Coventry as the city welcomes thousands of visitors next year for City of Culture.”

Scrappage threat

Coventry has rich motoring heritage, with legends like the Jaguar E-Type assembled in the city.

John Seddon, head of transport and innovation at Coventry City Council, told The Times newspaper that around 100 people would initially take part in the trial, but what will happen to the cars taken off the road long-term is not currently clear.

“For it to be fully effective we would want people to make the commitment where the car was at least surrendered for a particular time.” He said.

If successful, the scheme could be rolled out across the region and beyond, prompting fears that rare cars could be lost in the process as authorities interpret the framework in their own ways.

There is potential good news for motorists in Coventry though. It was recently announced that Coventry’s planned Clean Air Zone (CAZ) will now not go ahead after the government accepted other measures proposed by Coventry City Council to tackle air pollution. Coventry was ordered by government to implement a Class D charging zone, which is the same as planned for Birmingham, but a series of alternatives including re-routing roads, improving pedestrian access and investing in electric buses has been accepted instead.

The proposed scrappage scheme is notable for being the first such incentive which doesn’t require the purchase of a brand new car and as such is possibly the first truly green scheme of this kind. As has been well documented, the emissions involved in creating even the most clean-running brand new car are colossal, with battery production particularly contentious. If the ideal solution is to keep a classic for special occasions and use clean public transport for the regular commute, then Coventry could well be ahead of the curve… just as it was when the E-Type was produced in the city.