All cars built before 2005 are to be charged an additional £10 per day to enter central London, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced today.
The levy, which will be in addition to the existing congestion charge and will apply to all vehicles with pre-Euro 4 emission standards, is one of a package of measures aimed at cleaning up London’s poor quality air.
City Hall says the new fee, which it dubs the ’T-charge’, would “be the toughest crackdown” on polluting vehicles by any major city around the world when it comes into effect next year.
Official figures suggest poor air quality accounts for around 9,500 deaths in London each year and recent research revealed that almost 450 schools are in areas exceeding safe legal pollution levels.
In one of the first major policy announcements of his mayoralty, Mr Khan pledged “urgent action” to ensure the capital’s residents “no longer have to fear the very air we breathe”.
As well as the new emissions levy, the mayor has announced plans to introduce the central London Ultra-Low Emission Zone in 2019, one year earlier than originally planned, and to extend it from 2020 to cover the North and South Circular roads.
Transport for London has been asked to accelerate plans for all double–deck buses to become ULEZ-compliant and will also implement ‘clean bus corridors’ by operating the cleanest buses in the worst pollution hotspots.
Today’s proposals are subject to a public consultation, the first wave of which is open until Friday 29th July. Mr Khan’s office say a more detailed consultation will take place later this year.
Mr Khan said: “The scale of the failure to tackle the problem is demonstrated by the failure of the Government and the previous Mayor to meet legal pollution limits. Urgent action is now needed to ensure Londoners no longer have to fear the very air we breathe.
“That’s why I’m launching a hard-hitting plan of action to clean up our filthy air.
“Tough challenges call for tough measures, so I’m proposing a new £10 charge for the most polluting vehicles in central London from 2017, followed by an even stronger crackdown on vehicles pumping out hazardous pollutants.
“This is just a small part of the wider measures I’m consulting on to protect the health of Londoners. And I urge everyone to respond and share their views and ideas to help tackle this public health emergency.
Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member, Caroline Pidgeon, said while she welcomed the mayor’s announcement his plans “still do not go far enough”.
She added: “In addition to the Mayor’s proposals we need a package of other measures, starting with a rapid switch to zero emission electric vehicles.
“This must mean an extensive network of rapid charging points across London.
“It is also vital for TfL to bulk purchase new electric taxis to help drive down their price and then lease or sell them on to taxi drivers and garages.
“Other policies are also necessary such as dropping plans for the Silvertown Tunnel, which will merely generate more traffic, through to ensuring that the Enderby Cruise terminal only permits boats to use on shore electric power when berthed.”
Conservative AM Tony Devenish commented: “We all want to tackle NO2 emissions but most vehicles built after 2005 perform just as poorly as those built before so the cut-off date is meaningless.
“Small business owners and ‘white van drivers’ with older company vehicles will effectively be taxed for travelling into the capital to work – that cannot be right.
“I’m in favour of constructive measures to improve London’s air quality but schemes like this make it harder to undertake strategies that will genuinely lower emissions.”
Sue Terpilowski, London Policy Chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, said her organisation “supports the principle of improving air quality and removing from the roads those vehicles that contribute disproportionately to air pollution” but was “concerned about the need to ensure that any improvements in air quality are not achieved at a disproportionately high cost to business”.
“Micro and small businesses face disproportionately higher costs than medium and large-sized ones in carrying out business activities.
“We do not want to see tradesmen, coach companies, construction business owners or market traders refusing to serve London, which is why transport policy in London needs to recognise the difference between essential and non-essential journeys.
She added: “With congestion charges, low emission charges, ultra-low emission charges, road crossing charges and additional ‘T-Charges’, the time has come for a grown-up debate on whether the current charging mechanisms, and future mechanisms, will do more harm than good to London’s competitiveness.
“It is our opinion that these blunt instruments have disproportionate impacts on smaller businesses and that TfL and the Mayor should act now for root and branch reform before more small businesses are priced out of London.”