Mayor Rakes in Money from the ULEZ

The Evening Standard have published some data from TfL on the impact of the ULEZ on vehicles entering central London. The number of “non-compliant” vehicles, i.e. those that do not meet the emissions standards and therefore have to pay, has fallen by 35% since the scheme was launched in April.

Clearly many people are avoiding paying by either driving around the central zone, using public transport, not travelling at all or changing their vehicle. As regards the latter there has been a 9.7% increase in compliant vehicles which represents those who upgraded their vehicle. Many regular business users who work in central London, e.g. van drivers, will have found it is more economic to change their vehicle.

About 75% of vehicles in the central zone are now compliant. What impact has this change had on the air pollution? The report does not say. We suggest it will be very small as pollution comes from many sources, not just vehicles, some blows in from elsewhere and the worst vehicles are buses, HGVs and taxis where change is slow. But it is clearly a big money spinner for the Mayor. In July it was generating about £180,000 every day in taxation to help fill the Mayor’s budget problems – that’s equivalent to £66 million per year.

We have consistently argued that the ULEZ scheme is motivated by the desire to raise more tax, and was sold on false claims about major health impacts from air pollution. Air pollution in London has been falling rapidly, the population has been living longer and air pollution is only a minor problem on a very few roads. See this page for the truth of the matter and a full analysis:

There was an interesting report in the Financial Times on the 7th September where they used reporters in several major cities to travel around carrying a monitor device and measure air pollution levels. This is what Leslie Hook had to say about London: “When I first moved to London in 2018, I was surprised that friends complained about air pollution. I could see blue skies from my window and admire the clear views over Southwark Bridge as I commuted home” (he previously worked in Beijing). But he complains about the dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide reported by his measuring device even though there is no scientific consensus that NO2 has any medical danger. Most of his exposure to air pollution was during his commute to work but he says “the biggest surprise was when I hopped on the underground: the air on the tube was terrible”. The device indicated worse air pollution levels there than anywhere else, and particulate levels were very high.

When is the Mayor going to force London Underground to fix this problem? You can guess why he does not because if he taxed the tube he would be paying as the owner. That tells you why he is taxing vehicle owners alone.

Roger Lawson


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