Pay a Clean Air Zone charge alpha assessment report

Government Digital Service

October 29
12:51 2019

From: Government Digital Service
Assessment date: 08/10/2019
Stage: Alpha
Result: Met
Service provider: Defra

Service description

Clean Air Zones (CAZ) are physical areas that a number of local authorities will implement to improve air quality, enhance health benefits and drive economic growth. A number of these local authorities will be implementing Charging Clean Air Zones as a measure to meet these goals.

The end-to-end service is the simplest way for vehicle users affected by Clean Air Zones to understand their responsibilities and be encouraged to change their behaviour; or make payment for driving through a zone if their vehicle fails to meet emission standards.

Service users

Primary users

Individual Owner Driver (IOD)

  • Clear, consistent, trusted communications; what is a CAZ, how it impacts me
  • Check whether one needs to pay a charge
  • Understand CAZ boundaries
  • Understand how to avoid a penalty charge
  • Get customer support, if and when needed, to comply with CAZ scheme
  • Receive proof of payment

IOD Frequent user

  • Efficient process for frequent payment of CAZ charge
  • Easy to self-manage; means to verify if I have a charge to pay
  • Easily track which trips Ive paid for
  • Easily find evidence how my payment to CAZ is continually making a difference to air quality


  • Clear communication of rules and requirements of CAZs used
  • Streamlined process to make payment
  • Easily track which trips Ive paid for

IOD Infrequent

  • Awareness of CAZ and how to comply to avoid penalty charge notices (PCN)
  • Check CAZ boundary offline/on the go if not connected
  • Get offline support when needed if English not first language

Assisted Digital vehicle driver

  • Check my vehicle or pay a charge with assistance with the process
  • Notified by text when charged as might forget to check if been in a zone
  • Be able to call someone to verify if a charge is outstanding
  • Notified charge owning 12 hours before window to pay closes

Fleet Manager

  • Trusted, up-to-date information to make fleet compliant
  • Avoid paying a penalty charge if a vehicle makes an unplanned entry into a zone
  • Single payment across multiple CAZs
  • Flexibility if vehicle breaks down to swap hire or replacement in
  • Clearly sign-posted and simple refund process
  • Accurate payment reports with filters or API to integrate with internal systems

Secondary users

  • Control over local CAZ-related communications and content, seamless link between local and central government content online (incl. options available)
  • Clear division of labour between local and central government for support (we support local CAZ issues - like mitigations and tariffs - and central deals with digital service queries, assisted digital, for example) to be able to manage budgets
  • Keeping all stakeholders satisfied; press, businesses and private users (be clear what is expected of them to successfully comply)
  • Access to overall scheme performance key data as well as detailed analytics
  • Control over the flexibility of the scheme suspension, geographic parameters, updating whitelists, for example. and link to local strategy
  • Visibility of the payment process, but not actually managing it
  • Understanding the implications of GDPR who owns the data

Service Owner

  • Ability to answer and resolve public queries about their car, inaccuracies stored with the DVLA
  • Direct users to offline service should the system be unavailable.

1. Understand user needs


The service met point 1 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team identified and engaged with a range of users impacted by the service
  • they recognised that some user needs are not in line with policy, for example, fleet users and the payment period
  • the team appreciates the need to undertake further work and have a plan for researching their most risky assumptions early in the next stage
  • they are working closely with social researchers to influence policy decisions as appropriate
  • the team have been learning from other schemes, including similar schemes in London, to understand the potential effect they can expect their service to have on user behaviour
  • the team were able to show how their understanding of their users had evolved as research continued, including how the increasing maturity of their understanding of users who need assistance with using online services (AD users) has allowed them to develop a non-digital support model.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • consider how they will research with users with a wide range of accessibility needs. The team explained that they planned to undertake an element of accessibility research every other sprint, although the plan showed to the panel seemed to focus on accessibility audits, and undertaking assisted digital research more regularly. The panel is confident that the team understand the difference between assisted digital users and users with accessibility needs and that both need to be researched with, and remind the team that accessibility audits will not be sufficient
  • reconsider the overarching user needs they have identified. One of these is policy driven rather than a need that users will come to the service with, or that the service will ever be able to address
  • think about how to balance ease of use of the service while still enabling the service to promote a change in driving behaviour. Striking the right balance will be a challenge, especially as there is outside pressure for the behavioural influence levers in use to be strong. The panel hope the team will be able to balance these pressures by continuing to champion the needs of their users.

2. Do ongoing user research


The service met point 2 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • a range of appropriate user research methods have been used
  • the team have shown that from a usability perspective, users can get through vehicle checker and payments services and broadly understand the content.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • undertake more research, including testing alternative hypotheses in prototype form, on the end-to-end journey from the users perspective. Acknowledging the challenges of this being a shared service with local authorities, the users journey is likely to start with awareness of boundaries and vehicle charges and considering/applying for exemption. This experience will impact how users get on with the products the team are developing
  • present a plan showing detailed activities they intend to undertake in the private beta phase. This should include workstreams covering work with real beta users, the continuing development of the prototype from the backlog and research with assisted digital and accessibility users
  • better demonstrate their understanding of the limits of hypothetical research and how they are guarding against this in their design. For example, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, so the team could explore how users behave on comparable services e.g. paying a parking fine. The teams beta plans also need to show how they will rigorously test their designs and assumptions in the next phase
  • the panel were concerned with some of the assumptions the team had made about user behaviour around the policy in private beta. For example, not being eligible for a refund after the date paid for has passed and having a small timeframe to make a payment after travelling. These could create huge pain points in beta and must be properly impacted. This is particularly important in light of the teams finding that users associate the scheme with their local authority. Are Leeds and Birmingham prepared for the number of enquiries, media interest etc. these situations could result in?

3. Have a multidisciplinary team


The service met

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