A new pollution charge, expected to affect one million people across large areas of London from next year, is causing anger and worry for motorists; directed at the man behind the new tax—London Mayor, Sadiq Khan.

From the 8th of April 2019, an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will run in Central London and — from the 25th of October 2021 — will expand to include the inner London area surrounded by the North and South Circular roads, meaning vehicles driving inside the area must satisfy new, stricter emissions standards; or pay a daily charge of £12.50.

£1.5 billion a year

The government will enforce the ULEZ based on the declared emissions of the vehicle rather than the age but, cars liable to pay the ULEZ charge are petrol cars registered before 2005 and diesel cars registered before September 2015.

Transport for London encourages motorists to drive a vehicle that satisfies the new emissions standards instead of paying the charge, yet they will receive up to £1.5billion a year from the £12.50 daily charge—six times more than the £230million collected from the Congestion Charge alone.

The charge—which will replace the T-Charge and will run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year—will also affect owners of vans, motorcycles, and larger vehicles, including ambulances and fire engines. The ULEZ charge will be on top of the Congestion Charge and Low Emission Zone (LEZ) charge, and there won’t be any discount for residents.

Transport for London’s ‘integrated impact assessment’ predicts that around 565,000 cars and 276,000 vans registered in the capital will be liable for the ULEZ charge. Add HGVs and minicabs to the total number of vehicles and that number could increase to one million; unless an online petition, calling for a halt to the ULEZ expansion, succeeds.

‘Filthy and shameful’

The ULEZ charge came into being after studies showed that the air pollution caused by motor vehicles in the UK costs the NHS £6 billion a year, with a £650 million bill in London.

Officials believe the expanded ULEZ zone will mean reduced pollution across the whole of London and, by 2021, over 100,000 Londoners will no longer live in areas with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.

In June of this year, coinciding with the start of an investigation into how air pollution reduction strategies affect the health of children in London and Luton, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said:

“Tackling London’s lethal air and safeguarding the health of Londoners requires bold action.

“Air pollution is a national health crisis and I refuse to stand back as thousands of Londoners breathe in air so filthy that it shortens our life expectancy, harms our lungs and worsens chronic illness.

“I promised hard-hitting measures to tackle our shameful air pollution and today City Hall is confirming the next stage of our plans to expand the ultra-low emission zone up to the North and South Circular roads.”

Yet expanding the ULEZ into residential areas within the North and South Circular causes concern for RAC Public Affairs Manager, Nicholas Lyes, who said:

“Residents and small businesses within this area now have just three years to become compliant with the Mayor’s emission standards.

“This means many now face the daunting challenge of having to spend substantial amounts of money on a newer vehicle or face a daily charge of £12.50 to use their vehicles from October 2021.

“Motorists currently have no quick and easy means of knowing for certain what Euro emissions standard their car, or one they are looking to buy, meets–so it is absolutely vital that a central database is developed as quickly as possible.”

Mr Lyes also said the ULEZ expansion will most affect those from low-income backgrounds and those who work in roles such as hospitality and depend on using a car at night when public transport is not always available.

Coming to an area near you?

To see if the £12.50 charge will apply to your vehicle, use the ULEZ vehicle checker. If you’re caught driving through the zone without paying the daily fee, and with a vehicle not satisfying the emission standards, you’ll face a penalty charge of £160 (reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days).

If you’re looking for ways to avoid the ULEZ charge, officials suggest that, instead of paying the charge, people either walk, cycle, use public transport, rent a ULEZ-exempt vehicle from a car club, fit emission-reducing technology to their cars, buy an electric vehicle; or one that meets the ULEZ emissions standard.

Despite ULEZ only affecting London, there’s nothing to stop something similar happening across the UK. In fact, some councils are already planning their own emissions-based charges. With this in mind, cars not meeting the stricter emissions standards may experience a large drop in resale value.

Across the water, our French cousins—donned in the yellow vests that all cars in France must carry by law—have been rioting against fuel tax increases. With Gareth Bacon, leader of the Conservative Party in the London Assembly likening ULEZ to the poll tax, could he be right when he inferred that the mayor might experience his own ‘yellow vest’ moment once people realise they’ll pay up to £4,000 more each year to drive their cars?

What’s your view on the ULEZ? With the scandalous air pollution levels; do you welcome the charge? Will the ULEZ affect you? Share your views in the comments.

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