If you drive a combustion vehicle in London, you could now receive a fine of £130 for driving on certain roads in the centre of London.

A new charge introduced yesterday in the centre of London means that any combustion engine, excluding hybrids, could face a £130 fine for driving in certain streets in London in peak times. This fine replaces the T-Charge to stop people altogether from driving in the streets, in an aim to reduce pollution and help improve air quality, in the already tightly packed centre of London.

A ‘pioneering’ scheme

The scheme has been hailed as a pioneering by Hackney and Islington Council, who are the first two to introduce the scheme. Councillor Claudia Webbe, of Islington Council, said: “We are proud to be leading from the front with Hackney in this pioneering scheme – the first of its kind in the UK.”

The aptly called “ultra-low emissions streets” are the first of their kind across the UK and with many more expected to grow as the government introduces methods to reduce emissions in city centres.

In this particular scenario, the restrictions only apply 7 am – 10 am and 4 pm – 7 pm, Monday to Friday in certain areas but it is expected to increase as time goes on. The scheme will be policed through Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) software, that detects the numberplates automatically and determines whether they are combustion or not through the vehicle database.

Historical issues

Complying with emissions standards has been a problem for many years with the UK government receiving a final warning from the European Commission in January this year. The warning gave them a period of time to implement a successful strategy before they are taken to the European Court of Justice and potentially imposed with large fines.

The UK has had dangerously high levels of nitrous oxide since 2011, leading to approximately 40,000 – 50,000 premature deaths a year. The shocking statistic shows why the European Commission is showing such an interest in bringing the UK to task, and while the UK is not alone in this, we are one in five of those under investigation. Alongside France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Romania, we have been tasked with providing a suitable solution to the problem.

Two-tier motoring

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, described the scheme as the introduction to what is becoming a ‘two-tier system of motoring,” splitting up those who can afford it, and those who can’t but need to drive around. If this becomes the case in cities and towns across the country, then motoring will take a massive U-turn and become something only the super-rich in society can afford, much like the early motoring times.

She also commented on the replacement of an electric or hybrid car and told the BBC: “Our own study has shown that many people would like to own an electric vehicle but are put off by the cost but also the lack of charging infrastructure.”

Motoring has become a pricier business recently, with the highest petrol prices in four years and people are having to choose between feeding their families and driving to work due to the high price of petrol.

How will it work?

Currently, nine streets are affected by the restrictions and are Blackall Street, Cowper Street, Paul Street, Tabernacle Street, Ravey Street, Singer Street, Willow Street, Charlotte Road and Rivington Street.
While this may seem like a small proportion of places, if this scheme works, and reduces congestion and pollution, then it likely becomes a template for other streets across the country especially in places of high pollution.

At the moment, any combustion vehicle entering the area, aside from residents and local businesses, will receive an instant £130 fine. This will be policed through ANPR cameras and while it is unknown about the contestation of the fine, it is thought that it will be fairly strict. The main aim is to reduce pollution at peak times, like the school run and commuter times, not only to encourage people to cycle or walk but to stop those who do cycle or walk from breathing in too much pollution.

Feryal Demirci, the deputy mayor of Hackney, said: “Failing to act on poor air quality, which causes nearly 10,000 premature deaths across London every year, is not an option, and that’s why we’re being bolder than ever in our efforts to tackle it. We’re thrilled to be launching our ultra-low emissions streets – the first of their kind in the UK – which will reclaim the streets from polluting petrol and diesel vehicles, and improve the area for thousands of people every day.”

Do you think that having electric only streets is a good idea? How easy do you think this will be to enforce? Let us know below

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