Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to be Toughened

As new London Mayor Sadiq Khan promised in his manifesto, he plans to tackle vigorously the problem of air pollution in London, a lot of which comes from motor vehicles. To that purpose he yesterday announced proposals, and associated public consultations, on strengthening and bringing forward the planned Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

As proposed by previous Mayor Boris Johnson, the ULEZ would impose a charge on all vehicles that were not compliant with certain standards from 2020 within the existing Congestion Charge area of central London. The charge for cars was to be £12.50. Zero or very low emission vehicles were exempt and most modern cars, but not older ones and particularly not diesel vehicles. They needed to be Euro 4 compliant for petrol vehicles or Euro 6 for diesel cars – which meant only diesels manufactured after 2015 would likely be free of charge. Similar tough rules applied to large vans and HGVs with a £100 charge for the latter.

The objective, as with the new proposals, was to substantially reduce NO2 and particulate emissions which are the main health hazards and where London has been consistently breaching EU legal standards on certain roads (but as also happens in many other major cities). Although air pollution from vehicles has been falling, and will continue to fall as the vehicle fleet is replaced by newer models, the timescale is quite extended for major impacts and the increasing use of diesel cars has not helped. Diesel vehicles were mistakenly promoted by the Government because of their alleged lower emissions of CO2, but are much worse for other pollutants – and that’s assuming even that their pollution controls were working properly and the figures were not being fiddled by VW et al, which we now know to be untrue.

In summary the latest proposals are:

– To bring the implementation of the central London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) forward by one year to 2019

– To expand the ULEZ beyond central London in 2020 (to within the North/South Circular).

– Introducing a new Emissions Surcharge from 2017 for the most polluting vehicles entering central London (congestion charge zone) – in essence those older vehicles such as cars, buses and HGVs made before January 2006, or a year later for vans. This charge will be £10 (Toxicity Charge).

– Giving TfL the go-ahead to start looking at a diesel scrappage scheme as part of a wider national scheme run by the government.

– Making sure TfL leads by example by cleaning up its bus fleet and buying only hybrid or zero emission double-decker buses from 2018.

Note that as many as 9,000 vehicles that do not qualify for exemption and hence will incur the £10 Toxicity Charge currently enter central London. There will obviously be a strong incentive for the owners to replace their vehicles with newer ones, or not drive in at all.

You can find out more information, and respond to the public consultation, by going to this web page: www.london.gov.uk/cleanair

Here’s some comments from this writer:

Ensuring older vehicles are replaced, or removed from central London by 2017 is wise as they are a major source of pollution. However this will bring hardship to many, particularly van owners. Clearly those who own such vehicles are often the less wealthy or run small businesses so putting in place a “diesel scrappage” scheme would be helpful. But will the Government go along with this and provide the necessary funding? That is a big question.

Expanding the ULEZ to within the North/South Circular in 2020 will affect many more people and will be particularly difficult for current diesel vehicle owners as it will affect relatively modern vehicles at that time. Again a diesel scrappage scheme would help enormously. Note though that the previous plan to solely have the ULEZ cover the congestion charge zone made little sense as the air blows in from around and hence it was not likely to have much impact. But it was a lot cheaper because the existing congestion charge cameras could be used. Presumably a whole new technology infrastructure will be needed for the wider area. What are the costs of this likely to be? We do not know.

One particular negative effect will be on the environment on the North/South Circulars which are already heavily congested and hence have poor local air quality in some locations. This might be made worse if the boundary is just within those roads.

Note that the initial public consultation also covers such matters as giving the Mayor control over Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) receipts, the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street and your local town centre, the closure of roads (for car-free days, play streets, etc), the funding of a boiler scrappage scheme, etc, so there is lots to comment on. So please make sure you respond to this consultation.

But unfortunately there is no cost information provided for these proposals, or cost/benefit analysis, as is usual with recent consultations from TfL so any responses may be ill informed.

One last comment: the survey system asks you for lots of personal information which is highly inappropriate. I suggest you avoid answering those as best you can. But if they see any responses from 116 year olds living in Bromley with no specific gender bias then you will know who it is. For security reasons I simply do not give out such data as any simpleton now knows.

Roger Lawson

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