UK

Residents blast Sadiq Khan’s plan to expand £12.50-a-day ULEZ clean air zone

Furious residents have blasted London mayor Sadiq Khan‘s plan to expand the Ulez clean air zone to cover all of Greater London from next August, hitting tens of thousands more drivers. 

Hundreds of thousands more drivers face a daily fee of £12.50 for using London’s roads after the mayor announced he will expand the zone to boost air quality. It will now stretch more than 30 miles from Uxbridge to Upminster.

Stuart Weller, 63, lives in Uxbridge, one of the new areas covered by Ulez. He said: ‘I have real sympathy for the people who are going to have to pay more.

‘They should not be bringing it in. So many people are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, particularly younger people, and now isn’t the right time to do it.

‘I wouldn’t be against it at some time in the future when the benefits have been fully established but now is not the right time.

‘I am worried it will affect businesses and high streets. Unfortunately, the mayor lives on another planet and he doesn’t really understand the struggles people face.’

Residents in Sadiq Khan’s new Ulez zone have blasted the London mayor’s plan to expand the clean air zone. Stuart Weller (pictured) said: ‘The mayor lives on another planet’

The ultra-low emission zone will be expanded next year to cover the whole of Greater London

Lee Roddy, 55, who works at RAF Northolt and lives in Uxbridge said: ‘I think it is disgraceful, particularly when the cost of living is going up.

‘I don’t drive in my job and I try to avoid driving into London, but I am all against it. People just can’t afford to pay £12.50 a day.

‘They are saying it is to protect the environment, but the real reason is to raise money.

‘They always seem to pick on motorists. They are charging people now to park at Heathrow even if they are just there for a few seconds.

Will YOU be affected? 

Whether or not a vehicle is liable for the £12.50-a-day charge depends on how much nitrogen dioxide it emits.

For diesel cars and vans to avoid the charge they must generally have been registered from 2016, while most petrol models registered from 2006 are exempt.

Drivers can check the status of their vehicle by entering its registration number on TfL’s website.

The charges only need to be paid if you drive your vehicle within the zone. Parked vehicles are not subject to any charges. 

Transport for London (TfL) estimates that on an average day about 160,000 cars and 42,000 vans would be liable to pay the £12.50 Ulez fee once the area is expanded. 

It will cost those who drive in the area every day £4,500-a-year if their vehicle does not meet the requirements.

But transport officials believe that by the end of next year the expansion of the scheme will have encouraged tens of thousands of those drivers to switch to vehicles that comply with the minimum emissions standards or use other modes of getting around such as walking, cycling or public transport.

Richard Jeary, 73, a retired lorry driver from Uxbridge said: ‘They are just grabbing money. They are just taking money and that is all it is.

‘The mayor is just trying to get back money they have lost.

‘I have four relatives who live outside London and they are all going to have to pay now. It is going to be harder for us to see one another.’

Solicitor Raman Rai, 48, said: ‘I am not in favour of it. I understand the need to protect the environment but we are in an economic crisis so they should hold off and look at other ways to reduce emissions.

‘They could reduce emissions by promoting more bikes and electric vehicles.

‘I am worried businesses will suffer because it is an extra tax. The zone needs to stay where it is and it is just a stealth tax.

‘I think the mayor needs to do more studies on whether it should be expanded. They did a consultation and people said they didn’t want it.

‘It was a flawed consultation anyway and people were only allowed to respond to it for a very narrow window.’

Richard Jeary, 73, a retired lorry driver from Uxbridge said: 'They are just grabbing money. They are just taking money and that is all it is'

Richard Jeary, 73, a retired lorry driver from Uxbridge said: ‘They are just grabbing money. They are just taking money and that is all it is’

Solicitor Raman Rai, 48, said: 'I am not in favour of it. I understand the need to protect the environment but we are in an economic crisis so they should hold off and look at other ways to reduce emissions'

Solicitor Raman Rai, 48, said: ‘I am not in favour of it. I understand the need to protect the environment but we are in an economic crisis so they should hold off and look at other ways to reduce emissions’

Madalin Petrachi said: 'I didn't know about this until now but it is really sad that we will all be charged'

Madalin Petrachi said: ‘I didn’t know about this until now but it is really sad that we will all be charged’

Madalin Petrachi, 25, an engineering student from the town said: ‘I am looking to buy a car in the near future.

‘I didn’t know about this until now but it is really sad that we will all be charged.

‘They are thinking about the environmental crisis but they are also trying to raise money from people.’

Mr Khan said extending Ulez to cover the whole of the capital from August 29 next year is ‘one of the toughest decisions’ he’s had to make but that it will give five million Londoners cleaner air to breathe.

The scheme, which operates at all times except Christmas Day, is currently limited to the area within the North and South Circular roads.

Motorists have criticised the move on social media, which will cost commuters £3,250-a-year and comes as families are already facing soaring grocery, energy and fuel bills.

Min Palmer, 58, a financial adviser from Uxbridge said: ‘I am not a big fan of it all because it is just another reason to charge people.

‘Zones always seem to be expanding and we are just being charged more and more.

‘It is not the right thing to do in a cost-of-living crisis at all and it could mean people don’t come here to shop.

‘Our town centre needs a boost and not a fall in footfall.’

London mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured last week) said extending Ulez to cover the whole of the capital from August 29 next year is 'one of the toughest decisions' he's taken

London mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured last week) said extending Ulez to cover the whole of the capital from August 29 next year is ‘one of the toughest decisions’ he’s taken

The Ulez scheme, which operates at all times except Christmas Day, is currently limited to the area within the North and South Circular roads

The scheme, which operates at all times except Christmas Day, is currently limited to the area within the North and South Circular roads

Adam Ramswell, 32, a gas engineer from Egham in Surrey said: ‘My vehicle doesn’t fall within it, but it is definitely a bad thing.

Speaking from Uxbridge High Street, he added: ‘People need to be able to get out and about. The further into London you go there is less of a need to have a car but as soon as you go into zones four to six you need a car to get out and about.

‘You can’t be doing this when people are already struggling with the cost of living anyway.’

Georgia Young, 25, from Hillingdon said: ‘They are just trying to make more money. Some people won’t be able to get a new car and they will still be affected.

‘Anyone who is earning the minimum wage will just keep paying the money to go in because they can’t afford a new car.’

The ULEZ expansion is only the latest action in Sadiq Khan’s war on motorists, including:

Whether or not a vehicle is liable for the £12.50-a-day charge depends on how much nitrogen dioxide it emits.

For diesel cars and vans to avoid the charge they must generally have been registered from 2016, while most petrol models registered from 2006 are exempt.

Drivers can check the status of their vehicle by entering its registration number on TfL’s website.

Mr Khan said air pollution is making Londoners ‘sick from cradle to the grave’, with illnesses such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma.

He described the Ulez as ‘transformational’ and claimed extending it will mean ‘five million more people will be able to breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives’.

It comes despite fierce opposition, with an independent report showing that four times the amount of people told Tfl they opposed the move than supported it.

The Conservative transport spokesperson in the Greater London Assembly Nick Rogers said: ‘The official report from TfL shows an overwhelming majority – about 60 per cent – of respondents are opposed to Sadiq Khan’s damaging plans to expand the ULEZ. 

‘This increases to 68 per cent when you exclude organised campaigns, and a staggering 80 per cent of people who work in outer London are against.

‘Now is not the time to hammer Londoners with a £12.50 daily cost-of-living charge. 

‘Residents have made their views very clear to the Mayor: they do not want the ULEZ expansion. The Mayor must listen to them, scrap these plans and use the £250 million saved on real measures that tackle air pollution.’

The mayor insisted that the rising cost-of-living was a ‘key consideration’ in his decision on whether to implement the proposal, which was featured in a public consultation between May and July.

This led to him to introduce measures such as a £110million scrappage scheme to support Londoners on lower incomes, disabled people, small businesses and charities to scrap or retrofit their non-compliant vehicles.

There will also be a major expansion of bus services in outer London.

However Mr Khan revealed he ultimately wants to scrap the Ulez scheme along with the congestion charge in favour of ‘Singapore-style’ toll roads.

He said in the long-term he was looking into ‘smart road-user charging’ – potentially using cameras across London once motorists have switched to electric cars. 

An 'electronic road pricing' gantry on a road in the Central Area of Singapore - which uses sensors to detect vehicles and charge drivers bespoke tolls based on their movements

An ‘electronic road pricing’ gantry on a road in the Central Area of Singapore – which uses sensors to detect vehicles and charge drivers bespoke tolls based on their movements

Mr Khan said air pollution is making Londoners 'sick from cradle to the grave', with illnesses such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma

Mr Khan said air pollution is making Londoners ‘sick from cradle to the grave’, with illnesses such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma

He said the ‘nearest comparator’ for his plans was Singapore, which has ‘electronic road pricing’ which uses sensors attached to gantries over main roads to capture number plates. 

These sensors track at what time drivers are using certain roads and charges them a toll based on these factors, for example rush-hour traffic on a busy road being more expensive. 

Mr Khan added: ‘Expanding the Ulez London-wide has not been an easy decision. The easy thing for me would have been to kick the can down the road.

‘But in the end, public health comes before political expediency.

‘Our city is being smothered by toxic air—and it’s hurting and killing Londoners, leading to asthma, dementia, and even cancer. Air pollution particles have even been found in the livers and brains of unborn babies. We cannot stand idly by and allow this to continue.’

Billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg, who is the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy on climate ambition and solutions, claimed Mr Khan’s leadership is ‘helping to clean London’s air and set an example for cities around the world’.

The new Ultra-low emission zone: What is it and how will it affect you? 

When and why was the Ulez created?

It was launched in April 2019 to clean up London’s air.

How bad is air quality in the capital?

An estimated 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year from conditions related to air pollution.

How does Ulez help?

It disincentivises drivers from using the most polluting vehicles by charging them a daily fee for entering the zone.

How much is the fee?

The charge for vehicles which do not comply with minimum emissions standards is £12.50 for cars, smaller vans, motorbikes and other lighter vehicles.

The fee for non-compliant larger vehicles such as lorries, buses and coaches is £100 under the low emission zone scheme.

How do I avoid the fee when driving in the zone?

Ensure your vehicle meets the minimum emissions standard.

For petrol cars that means those generally first registered after 2006.

Most diesel cars registered after September 2015 are exempt from the charge.

When does the Ulez operate?

All day, every day, except Christmas Day.

How soon after a journey do I need to pay?

You have until midnight on the third day following the journey.

What happens if I am liable to the charge but do not pay?

Failing to pay can result in a penalty charge notice of £160, reduced to £80 for early payment.

What area is currently covered by the Ulez?

The zone initially covered the same area of central London as the congestion charge.

Since October 25 last year it has included everywhere within the North and South Circular roads.

How significant is the August 2023 expansion?

The zone will be 18 times larger, covering all London boroughs.

Meanwhile the chief executive of charity Asthma + Lung UK described the move as a ‘public health victory’.

Sarah Woolnough said: ‘This is a huge win for everyone’s lungs. Asthma + Lung UK is delighted that the Mayor of London has listened to our campaigners. 

‘We hope this will lead to fewer premature deaths and fewer hospital admissions linked to air pollution.

‘We urge other polluted cities to follow in London’s footsteps by introducing ambitious Clean Air Zones to protect everyone’s right to breathe cleaner air.’ 

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said the announcement will be ‘a hammer-blow for desperate drivers and businesses already struggling with crippling fuel costs’

The chief executive of the National Franchised Dealer Association, which represents car and commercial retailers across the UK, also argued against the expansion during ‘one of Britain’s worst cost-of-living crises.’

Sue Robinson said: ‘The Ultra-Low Emissions Zone expansion will undoubtedly have a disproportionate and adverse effect on London’s most deprived communities and motorists.

‘This £12.50 daily charge will hit businesses, key workers and less affluent families the hardest and the additional cost to some of London’s poorest communities will push some families over the brink and force a reduction in their access to private mobility.

‘We do not believe that this has been fully considered by Transport for London and looks more and more to be a money generating scheme for TfL.’ 

Meanwhile Michael Lloyd of the Federation of Small Businesses said a ‘heavy-handed’ Ulez expansion will ‘leave many small firms in a precarious position’.

He added that a recent survey of affected small businesses suggested 18 per cent planned to shut down if the extension went ahead, and 25 per cent intended to pass the extra cost on to customers.

But Mr Khan has said the expansion is needed because the ‘current and long-term threat from toxic air pollution to public health is significant’, adding that harmful emissions will cost the NHS and social care £10.4billion if no further action is taken to improve air quality.

The Mayor is also concerned about traffic congestion which he said had an estimated cost to the London economy of £5.1billion last year. Mr Khan added that nearly two-thirds of the cost of congestion in the city has been attributed to traffic delays in outer London. 

He has said that in the short term, expanding the Ulez zone ‘will have the biggest effect on emissions relative to the cost to Londoners as a whole, as well as helping to tackle the climate emergency and traffic congestion’. 

The staggering cost of driving in London has been laid bare in recent days, as it was revealed that parking firms are on track to issue demands for up to £1billion fines in the capital this year.

Meanwhile, London councils have issued 1.1 million fines – worth up to £100million – to motorists who drove through low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) over the past three years.

The multi-million pound schemes, which were put in place by the government to encourage a long-term move towards more cycling and walking, have been branded as council ‘cash cows’.

Labour mayor Mr Khan has been a particularly vocal proponent of them, issuing guidance to the capital’s 32 town halls on how to create them. 

But the widely hated schemes have been accused of making little impact on pollution and simply moving congestion and CO2 emissions to other areas. 

New government data has revealed that car use in London boroughs where controversial low-traffic neighbourhoods were installed during the pandemic rose more quickly compared to areas where the schemes were not adopted.

The ten inner London boroughs that adopted the car-free zones saw total vehicle miles rise by an average of 41 million (11.4 per cent) in 2021 as road traffic in the capital rebounded to similar levels seen before the first lockdown.

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