LONDON – In an alleged bid to fight air pollution, the City of London has introduced one of the world’s toughest vehicle emissions standards, placing a tax on older, more polluting cars that drive into the center of the British capital.
Starting Monday, the drivers of diesel cars more than 4 years old and of gasoline-powered engines more than 13 years old must pay a 12.50-pound ($16.30) fee day or night when entering central London. That’s on top of London’s congestion charge, which is 11.50 pounds ($15) between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays.
Non-compliant trucks and buses face a 100-pound ($130) daily fee.
London Liberal Mayor Sadiq Khan says the Ultra-Low Emission Zone is necessary since thousands die annually in London alone from toxic air. He says “the eyes of the world are on us.”
Hundreds of thousands of motorists have just two years to save up for a new car – or face punishing daily charges under the proposed “pollution tax” that has barely been publicized.
Sadiq Khan’s planned charge of £12.50 a day for “dirtier” cars over a certain age to enter the city will send the part- exchange value of those vehicles plummeting.
Where the new pollution tax will be applied – £24 per day for central London, £12.50 for outer London.
To make matters worse, there is no scrappage scheme in place to compensate drivers who opt to change their vehicles for cleaner, less polluting models.
There will be no exemptions from the fee, discounts for residents or relaxation of the rules at weekends.
The first stage of the scheme — called the Ultra Low Emission Zone, or Ulez — comes into effect, on April 8, covering the current Congestion Zone.
But from October 2021 it will expand to a huge area bounded by the North and South Circular roads and covering more than 12 London boroughs.
What’s more, councils in other cities including Manchester, Oxford and Birmingham are already said to be looking at bringing in similar schemes.
Central London workers who commute by car face paying an extra £62.50 a week, or more than £3,000 a year. But the fee is in ADDITION to the existing £11.50-a-day Congestion Charge, adding up to a combined £24 daily clobbering — an exorbitant £6,000 a year.
Drivers of pre-2015 diesels and petrol vehicles made before 2006 will have to pay up. It is expected that the applicable age of vehicles will move with time, so in 2022 it will be cars older than 2016 that are affected by the zone and so on.
It means every time people drive their car in the zone — mums on the school run, weekend shoppers, shift workers, Blue Badge holders and their carers — they will have to pay the £12.50 fee. Failure to pay it could incur a £160 fine.
Gareth Bacon, Tory leader of the London Assembly, said: “More than 3.5million people live inside this zone and many more pass through it daily. Residents will suddenly find short trips to do the weekly shop or take their child to school will cost them an additional £12.50.
“This is Sadiq Khan’s poll tax as the people hit hardest will be the poorest. Many simply won’t be able to afford to upgrade their vehicle.”
The Mayor has no scrap page scheme in place to compensate drivers who opt to change their vehicles for less polluting models
Some authorities have doubts about the environmental benefit of the scheme, which is administered by local government agency Transport for London. Mr Bacon said: “Based on TfL figures, the extension would improve air quality by a mere ten per cent.”
Cameras will read vehicle number plates as they go into the zone and check them against TfL’s database to see if they meet the emissions standard.
TfL says there are about 1.15million vehicles currently registered in the expanded Ulez. But car industry trade body the SMMT estimates that 1.6million London motorists will be affected, because it would include people living in outer London boroughs who regularly drive inside the zone.
It is not yet clear how small trips within the expanded zone will be monitored. In general, it will be owners of older diesel and petrol cars that will have to pay up, based on their pollution emissions.
It means someone could pop to the shops in a £160,000 six-litre Bentley Bentayga 4×4 without paying a penny, yet a 2011 diesel Ford hatchback — current value £5,000 — will have to pay.
Howard Cox, founder of pressure group FairFuelUK, told The Sun “Families least able to afford a newer vehicle will be hardest hit.