The EU has sent a written warning to the UK government, stating that the UK exceeds acceptable pollution levels in its cities. If the UK does not begin to resolve this soon, the EU may see fit to begin issuing fines. Rather than admit culpability for past policy decisions that led to this situation, in a month’s time the government will announce a series of measures to tackle the crisis. Nearly all of them will penalise drivers of high-polluting cars.
The government is set to announce strict new measures on diesel drivers shortly, including a ‘toxin tax’ (or T-charge) on those driving in up to 35 locations around the UK (10 cities and 25 towns). The tax could be as much as £20 per day for the worst polluted areas.
London leads the way
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced this week that the T-charge for drivers of pre-Euro 4 engine cars in central London will be £10 per day, starting from October. The charges will run alongside the existing congestion charge of £11.50, meaning that drivers of cars classified as “polluting” will pay £21.50 a day to drive around central London. The aim is to improve the city’s air quality by discouraging the owners of high emissions vehicles to drive into central London.
Nor is that all. An ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) will replace the T-charge as of April 2019. At that time, the fee for pre-Euro 4 vehicles will increase to £12.50, meaning that drivers’ total daily fee will reach £24.
If the London Mayor has his way, the ULEZ will expand in 2020, with taxis, buses, HGVs and coaches all incurring charges. Some will be charged up to £100 to drive in the zone under the proposed scheme. Khan believes that this will cut nitrous oxide levels by up to 50% by 2020. ULEZ will be the first ultra low emission zone in the world.
Both initiatives intend to ‘price out’ drivers of high emissions vehicles from central London. As many as 10,000 vehicles are likely to be affected by the T-charge.
Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom will announce the government’s plan to tackle the problem in the next month. It is expected to contain a range of measures to combat urban pollution, including taxes for driving into towns and cities and increased parking charges. The aim is to discourage polluting vehicles from entering cities. Areas such as Birmingham, Southampton and Leeds are on the government hit list.
The measures could even include an enforced ban on private diesel cars and commercial vehicles entering cities during the “peak hours of the day.”
Not long ago, the government proclaimed diesel cars to be a greener and more environmentally friendly option than petrol cars. It encouraged consumers to buy them instead of their petrol equivalents. As such, the new plans are likely to create widespread outrage amongst diesel motorists, who feel betrayed by the government.
The new regulations will likely be enforced via a camera network similar to those already operating in London. The investment needed to create these new urban networks of anti-pollution cameras will run into the millions.
PetrolPrices.com members say ‘no’ to taxes
In an online poll conducted by PetrolPrices.com of 150 members, a massive 92% of respondents said they would refuse to pay the new ‘toxin charges.’ This illustrates the huge challenge that the government and local councils will face.
The government’s long-term plan seems to be to make all new cars and vans ‘zero emissions,’ or preferably electric, by the year 2024. This will bring the UK in line with other leaders in diesel emission-reducing initiatives around the world. Many major cities (including Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City) plan to enforce new regulations that prohibit or discourage the use of diesel and ban diesel vehicles by 2025.
The Dutch government plans to go one step further and prohibit the sale of both petrol and diesel cars by 2025 – it is keen to set a precedent in encouraging the sale of electric cars.
Based on the reaction of PetrolPrices.com users to the toxin tax, it seems the government could face a public backlash at the new T-charge and ULEZ schemes.
It certainly seems extraordinary that the government plans to penalise drivers for polluting cities, without running a comprehensive high polluting vehicle scrappage scheme alongside such plans.
We’d love to hear your views about these new government plans. Let us know in the comments section what you think about the new diesel penalties. Would you pay these charges? Would you scrap your high polluting vehicle for cash if it was offered?