Since the introduction of the new Ultra-Low Emission Zone on April 8th, Transport for London has raked in around £26m in levies and penalty charges. That’s approximately £198,473 each day.
We shouldn’t forget that the figure is on top of the regular congestion charge (£250m raised 2016/17), and the fact that just 28 employees of Transport for London earned just under £7m between them for the year 2016/17, according to the TfL Annual Report & Statement.
At nearly £900,000 / day in revenue, you’d have thought that TfL would be a little more forgiving when it comes to enforcing their strict 7-day doubling of the penalty fine for missing a ULEZ payment; the £12.50 charge automatically raises to £80 after the deadline of payment is missed (within a day or two of the infringement), which doubles to £160 if the penalty charge isn’t paid within seven days.
The ultra-low emission zone charge is payable 365 days of the year, 24-hours a day, and the charge doesn’t cover anything more than for the day – arrive at 23.59hrs and leave at 00.01, you’ll pay twice.
Around one in four motorists that are liable for the charge have been fined so far, with many complaining of lack of clear signage or a misunderstanding of the whole situation; how to pay, where they pay, what area it covers – 130,000 motorists have been hit with a fine since April.
Which also leads to an issue over non-authority websites offering to take payments for the charge, and charging a further £7.49 for the pleasure – the total fee, including ‘processing fees’ comes to £19.99. It seems as though it isn’t just Transport for London that want their fat slice of the pie.
Of course there is the argument that London has some of the best public transport networks available, certainly within the UK, so in theory, there’s little need for personal transportation if you’re going about your daily business within the city.
And yet, 28% of Londoners live in poverty, that’s six percentage points above the national average, and if you look at inner London, that figures rises to 32%. For many Londoners, owning a car is an essential lifestyle necessity, not a luxury.
In a recent study by Deutsche Bank, London was ranked as having the most expensive public transport in the world, which leaves millions of Londoners relying on their own car for transportation, and yet they’re being penalised for the privilege. It would seem that there are very few options, other than to walk everywhere.
Ask yourself, if car insurance wasn’t a legal requirement, would it still be so expensive? You can guarantee that the market would change significantly, as competing providers made deals and offered more for the money, all in a bid to win your business.
It’s the same for the ultra-low emission zones – if you positively need to enter the zone, you have to pay the price, and while some may say that £12.50 per day is a small price to pay, I’d argue that it’s a family meal for some, and with no viable alternative transport, families are going without.
Also, we shouldn’t forget that the Congestion Charge (when first introduced) was such a horrifying idea that even Westminster Council, with the backing of Kensington and Chelsea borough council tried to block it. Now, we happily await for the next charge to come along, and accept it with nothing more than a minor grumble. It’s also worth pointing out that the charge has more than doubled since the introduction.
Air pollution is a very real thing, no one (least of all, me) is denying that. But it seems as though Transport for London want their cake and to eat it too; the world’s most expensive public transport, and charging you to enter the city in certain vehicles.
As we reported last week, electric buses account for just 2.6% of the TfL fleet, so they’re not exactly leading by example, and the issue isn’t about changing private vehicle usage, it’s more about incentivising rather than penalising.
You want polluting cars to stop entering the city? Give them discounted public transport. Stop looking at the bottom line of the bank balance, and start thinking about genuine ways to improve transport networks that benefit more than the few.
Use some of that £900,000 per day revenue to subsidise the networks, to offer something viable, that isn’t going to take food out of the mouths of the poorest in our society. Give them the option to give up their car, not force them further into poverty.