Expansion of the ULEZ to All of London

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced that he plans to expand the ULEZ scheme to the whole of London next year (see press release below).

The latest proposal from the Mayor is yet another example of how his policies are all driven by money. The ULEZ was and is an enormously expensive scheme that is having minimal impact on air pollution levels (these are more influenced by Government taxation policies and the fact that older polluting vehicles do get scrapped sooner or later).

There is no evidence that air pollution significantly affects the life expectancy of Londoners – those who live in the most polluted boroughs often live longer.

His claims about a climate change emergency is just scaremongering and certainly his policies will have no impact whatsoever on global climate change which if it is affected by anything is by CO2 emissions in China and the USA, not by emissions in London.

The expanded ULEZ will add substantial costs to many Londoners and even encourage them to move elsewhere. London is becoming a city only a place to live in for the young and fit and who are willing to put up with using public transport.

There will be a full public consultation on these proposals in due course but in the meantime there is a survey you can respond to on the Talk London platform – see https://www.london.gov.uk/talk-london/reducing-emissions-transport? Please respond to it.

Anyone directly affected by these proposals should write to their Member of Parliament because only the Government can stop Sadiq Khan pursuing these damaging policies. See https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-an-mp-or-lord/contact-your-mp/

Mayor of London’s Press Release: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayor-sets-out-london-wide-ulez-plans

More information from the Freedom for Drivers Foundation on the ULEZ and its costs here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment

Roger Lawson

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Higher Congestion Charge Stays, But Hours Cut

In June 2020 the London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. tax) was increased from £11.50 to £15.00 and the hours of coverage were extended. This was stated to be a temporary increase to cope with the Covid epidemic which was expected to lead to more people using private vehicles, when in fact traffic has reduced as more people worked from home.

Now the Mayor has announced more changes which are:

Phase 1 (from 20 December 2021)

The charge level will stay at £15.

The 90 per cent residents’ discount will be re-opened for all eligible residents to register for the discount.

The delayed payment charge will be £17.50 and the deadline will be extended to three days after the day of travel.

The Auto Pay and Fleet Auto Pay discount will be removed – that means an additional £1 payable for those registered with Auto Pay (a high proportion of payers).

The reimbursement arrangements that were introduced as part of the temporary changes will be retained or adapted to ensure that people most vulnerable to infection from epidemics and pandemics will continue to be protected. This will also facilitate essential trips made by NHS staff in times of exceptional or extraordinary circumstances including for commuting purposes – see https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/reimbursements-of-the-congestion-charge-and-ulez-charge for details.

The ability for residents to pay by App or online for multiple consecutive charging days will be removed.

Phase 2 (from 21 February 2022)

The operating hours for the Congestion Charge will be 07:00-18:00 on weekdays and 12:00-18:00 on weekends and Bank Holidays.

There was a public consultation on the proposed changes although only 9,680 responses were received when there are 2.6 million cars registered in London. Clearly most people affected did not know about it. The consultation did not ask simple questions about whether people supported the proposals or not. Our comment that the proposals lacked any evidence base to support them were reported however.

But the consultation report (available from here: https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/congestion-charge-changes ) claims that the Congestion Charge was successful in reducing congestion which is simply not true. This is a blatant lie repeatedly made by TfL. See our analysis on this page: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/congestion . There has been no published data on traffic journey times in recent years, for reasons you can guess, but the experience of most drivers suggests it has got worse not better.

Comment: The Congestion Charge has always been about taxing London’s motorists to raise money for the Mayor and TfL to spend money on subsidising uneconomic public transport and on their bloated empire. These changes may mean that TfL will make over £100 million more in taxation if the higher Congestion Charge is retained.

You cannot tackle traffic congestion by charging because the unsatisfied demand for private transport is so high that people will pay almost anything for it and any road space released is soon filled up by new entrants. During the pandemic that is even more the case.

Roger Lawson

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Transport Crisis in London

Both Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, and Andy Byford, London Transport Commissioner, have warned that unless they get more money from the Government then there are going to be savage cuts in public transport and on major infrastructure projects. The latter might include the required repairs to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, the A40 Westway and A12 Gallows Corner flyover leading to their closure.

Some 100 bus routes face the axe and frequencies may be cut on 200 other routes. Other proposals are no more electric buses, no more step-free stations, no more “Healthy Streets” cycling and walking schemes and no more 20mph zones or safer junctions.

Now some readers might welcome some of those things and clearly the Mayor is trying to scare the Government into providing more funding within weeks. But some of those suggestions like closure of the Rotherhithe Tunnel and the Westway would be disastrous for the functioning of the road network in both east and west London.

How did TfL get themselves into such a mess? It all stems from the policies adopted by Ken Livingstone which was for massive subsidies to buses and commitments for large expenditure on Crossrail and other underground projects. The bus network has certainly been greatly expanded but at a cost that was never justified and Crossrail has been a financial disaster. Over budget, over schedule, and never justified on a cost/benefit basis. The Mayor was relying on income from it to cover TfL’s future budgets which it never has.

Boris Johnson never tackled the problems created by Livingstone when he was Mayor while Sadiq Khan has actually made matters worse by spending enormous amounts of money on cycle lanes, LTNs, and other schemes that have damaged the road network. He has also encouraged the growth in the population of London while the infrastructure never kept up with it despite massive central Government funding.

A report in the Express shows that £515 more per person was spent on transport schemes in London than on the North of England. A new report from the IPPR North think tank has published an independent analysis of transport spending over the past decade. Between 2009/10-2019/20, the North received just £349 per person in transport spending. In comparison, the UK as a whole received £430 per person, while London received a staggering £864 per person. Where did it all go one might ask? On pointless and generally uneconomic schemes not justified by any cost/benefit analysis is the answer.

The daft transport schemes such as the Congestion Charge and the ULEZ have actually encouraged people to move out of London and the cuts to public transport that are proposed will expedite that trend. With falling income from bus and tube fares already caused by the pandemic, the outlook is certainly bleak. But failing to maintain the infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels and flyovers while the Major prefers to spend money on other things is surely a sign of gross incompetence.

London needs a new transport plan where expenditure is matched to income and needless subsidies removed. In other words, people should pay the cost of the trips they take on public transport and free riders should be stopped. But will a socialist Mayor ever take such steps? I doubt it. So London is likely to go into further decline and more people will move out.

But London is at the heart of the UK economy so there is some justification for central Government stepping in once again to reform London’s governance. We need less populism (which generally means hand-outs to win votes) and more financial acumen in the leadership. Certainly the current arrangement where you have a virtual dictator in the role of Mayor and a toothless London Assembly is not working.

The key to improving the London transport network is not to have it all (both public and private transport) under the control of one body (TfL) which leads to lack of competition and perverse incentives. For example, encouraging cycling to relieve pressure on public transport while causing more road traffic congestion and introducing schemes such as the ULEZ to help subsidise public transport while increasing the cost of private transport.

Perhaps we need a new Dr Beeching to put the London transport network back into a cost-effective structure as he did for British Rail. But at least the Government seems to have taken some rational decisions by cancelling the eastern link of HS2 to Leeds. Just like Crossrail in London, HS2 was never justified in terms of benefits achievable and the money would have been better spent on smaller projects. But politicians love grandiose schemes. Reality seems to be finally sinking in on the national scene even if not yet in London.

Roger Lawson

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ULEZ Had Minimal Impact on Air Pollution

According to a new study by Imperial College, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) had minimal impact on air pollution in London.

The researchers used publicly available air quality data to measure changes in pollution in the twelve-week period from 25 February 2019, before the ULEZ was introduced, to 20 May 2019, after it had been implemented. They controlled for the effects of weather variations, and then used statistical analysis to look for and quantify changes in pollution.

They found that, compared to the overall decrease in London’s air pollution levels, the ULEZ caused only small improvements in air quality in the weeks following its start date: an average reduction of less than 3 per cent for nitrogen dioxide concentrations, and insignificant effects on ozone and particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations. They also found that the biggest improvements in air quality in London in fact took place before the ULEZ was introduced in 2019.

Although London’s air quality has been substantially improving in recent years, that improvement is down to other factors such as newer vehicles in use, and central Government measures such as tax incentives. The ULEZ scheme, and particularly its expansion to cover a lot of outer London, was never justified on a cost/benefit analysis. See our analysis of the ULEZ here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment . Its introduction was clearly motivated by financial revenues to the Mayor and TfL, not by health benefits.

You can read more details of the study from the link below but the comment that air pollution in London causes 4,000 deaths per year is simply wrong.

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/231894/london-pollution-improved-with-evidence-small/

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ULEZ Expansion – It’s Mainly About Raising Taxes

From today (25/10/2021) the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is expanded to cover everywhere within the North/South Circular. If you drive into it and your car or van is not compliant it will cost you £12.50 per day.

Many people are going to get a big shock because a high proportion of people affected do not seem to be aware of the charges they will suffer – as many as a third of drivers in London and the South-East who will be affected are not aware of the change – see the “This is Money” article link below.

Particularly badly affected are those who bought diesel vehicles a few years ago after encouragement by the Government and will now have to buy a newer vehicle or pay the charge.

We have consistently argued against this unjust imposition of more taxes when the benefit in terms of improved air quality will be both small and of limited duration. See our web site page here for more details: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment

You can see the real motivation for expanding the ULEZ when you read that it could bring in an extra £723 million per year for TfL. With the Mayor and TfL suffering from a major budget crisis you can understand why the Mayor is trying to justify this scheme on health grounds. But the facts do not support it.

To check whether your vehicle is compliant, go here: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/check-your-vehicle/

This Money Article: https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-10112743/ULEZ-extension-Three-five-drivers-London-unaware-changes.html

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Mayor Raking it in from ULEZ Charges

The “This is Money” web site have published a very good article on how the ULEZ charge is generating large amounts of tax money for the Mayor and TfL in London. It reports, based on data obtained by the AA, that the Mayor raked in £107 million in the first year of the ULEZ. See link below for the article.

We pointed out when the ULEZ charge was first proposed that this was about raising money for TfL to plug a big hole in their budgets. It was not primarily about improving the health of Londoners as claimed because any cost/benefit analysis indicates it is very poor value for money. See Reference 2 below for links to past articles.

With the ULEZ expanding in October and likely to affect another 300,000 drivers of older vehicles, the tax income raised will grow exponentially.

This is basically an attack on car drivers, particularly those who cannot afford to buy a new car, such as the elderly or poor.

Implementing the expanded ULEZ will cost £130 million in capital expenditure and by 2030 the expected benefit in reduced emissions is forecast to be zero as the vehicle fleet changes. But will the taxes ever be removed? We doubt it.

In reality the Mayor will plead poverty as he regularly does and the ULEZ and Congestion Charges will increase.

Reference 1: This is Money article: https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-9792587/London-rakes-107m-extra-ULEZ-zone-expands-14-weeks.html

Reference 2: FFDF Articles on the ULEZ: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment

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ULEZ Costs Rise Again

Sadiq Khan has disclosed in his latest answers to questions in the London Assembly that the cost of implementing the expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will now be £130 million.  This is to cover the cost of an extra 750 cameras to cover the expanded area to the North/South Circular.

The original estimated cost was only £38.4 million, subsequently rising to £120 million and now £130 million. It never made economic sense in terms of the cost/benefit ratio and is a typical example of TfL and the Mayor being financially incompetent.

In fact TfL concealed the original costs and likely income when the project was first proposed. See this web page for the history of what happened and why it never made sense: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment  . In reality it is imposing enormous costs on Londoners for minimal benefit.

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Pushing Ahead with the ULEZ and Making Motoring Unaffordable

As expected, Sadiq Khan is pushing ahead with expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the North/South Circular in October. Signs warning of entering into the zone are already being put up (see above).

Mr Khan has issued a press release announcing this which you can read here: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/ulez-to-be-expanded . He claims to have a mandate from Londoners to put environment and climate policies at the heart of his second term despite the fact that only a minority of Londoners actually voted for him. He also claims his policies will “improve London’s air and halt the climate emergency”. The former is not true and the latter is a figment of his imagination.

What he does spell out though is that 100,000 car owners, 35,000 van owners and 3,000 HGVs will be affected although the AA estimates the total number of motorists affected at more like 350,000. Owners of cars will have to pay £12.50 per day and most are still blissfully unaware of the impact this will have on them. But it will raise as much as £1 billion per annum in the next few years. The financial gain is what is driving this new taxation, not the environmental benefit.

The claims about the improvements in London’s air quality from the existing ULEZ zone are erroneous. It has improved because of national regulations on vehicle emissions and the change to the vehicle fleet as older vehicles are replaced. The recent changes have been solely down to the fact that with Covid epidemic lockdowns in place, the number of vehicles on the road of all kinds has been much reduced.

Such “environmental” taxes and the demand by Government that we all move to electric vehicles are likely to make the ownership of private cars something for the rich alone in future. Carlos Tavares, the leader of Stellantis (they own Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot and Vauxhall brands) said recently that “The brutality with which change is imposed on this industry is an understatement. It’s completely top down and completely brutal. How do we protect freedom of mobility to the middle classes that may not be able to afford to buy €35,000 battery electric vehicles where today for the same conventional product they pay half for it?”

In effect, private mobility may become something only available to the wealthy with everyone else having to use public transport or cycle. Is that a world you wish to live in?

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Avoiding Road Taxes

With Sadiq Khan being re-elected many Londoners are going to be faced with an expanded ULEZ scheme in October. That means £12.50 per day for every day you use non-compliant vehicles within the North/South Circular. Perhaps you think that your vehicle will be compliant because it’s relatively new, but that is not the case for diesel cars. Petrol cars sold after 2005 are generally compliant but diesel cars that are not Euro-6 standard (registered since September 2015 mostly) are not.

You can check the taxes you pay in Congestion Charges and ULEZ charges in London for your current vehicle here: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/check-your-vehicle/

Personally I made the mistake of buying a diesel car in 2013 after the Government chose to exhort people to purchase them to cut CO2 emissions and car manufacturers such as Jaguar dropped most of their petrol models. With me doing relatively low mileage in recent years, and hardly any in the last year while we have been in lock-down, my vehicle would have lasted several more years. This retrospective legislation to penalise vehicles that were compliant with all emissions regulations when purchased is somewhat annoying to say the least.

If you live inside the North/South Circular you will have a difficult choice to make come October. Either buy a new compliant vehicle or trade-in for a second-hand one that is. You might consider an electric or hybrid vehicle for example.

But there are some other options. I happened to read an article published by Motoring Research recently on “What is a historic vehicle?” which intrigued me. Historic vehicles are those more than 40 years old. Such vehicles (except those used for commercial purposes) are exempt from the ULEZ and are also exempt from road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty).

In theory you could buy a restored classic car for a reasonable price and save a lot in tax. But you need to pick the vehicle carefully. Most “popular” cars more than 40 years old are likely to be full of rust and have very high mileages so they won’t be good buys. Classic cars such as E-Type Jaguars might be attractive but are now very expensive if well preserved. But there are other Jaguar models such as early XJs or 2.4 models that would be more practical. Parts would be readily available but maintenance costs might be high.

Having run some ancient and decrepit vehicles when I was younger, I am not particularly recommending this approach unless you are keen on classic cars and don’t need to use a vehicle every day.

It’s always amusing to watch the TV programme Bangers and Cash available on some channels. It’s very clear that the cost of restoring a beat-up vehicle is never recouped so buy a fully restored vehicle if you want a classic. And be careful on your choice. Vehicles that were unreliable and expensive to maintain when new will not have changed. While some models such as Jaguar E-Types are way too expensive for the average person.  

But there is another option which is to move to a ULEZ compliant vehicle that is not brand new. The car I owned before my current one was a Jaguar XJ8 registered in 2006 with petrol V8 engine and that is ULEZ compliant. See photograph above. This had an aluminium body so shouldn’t rust and you can pick a good one up for £12,000. This was a superb and spacious vehicle with all mod-cons. Perhaps I should simply go back in time and buy another? Or one can buy a low mileage Bentley Continental of a similar age for £25,000.  

If you want to go for something smaller and cheaper, look at Japanese cars which are generally reliable and Japan retained the love of petrol versus diesel. How about a one-owner Lexus GS 450H (a hybrid power train) with 66,000 miles on the clock for £7,500 advertised on AutoTrader if you want a luxury vehicle with a gesture to environmental soundness?

There are certainly some interesting and good quality vehicles that would enable you to avoid paying Sadiq Khan’s tax every day – at least for the present.  

Remember the ULEZ tax is about raising money for the Mayor’s empire, not about improving air quality where it will have minimal impact – see this page for the evidence: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Electric Cars, Buses and Trucks – Problems Remain

Electric cars are rapidly becoming more viable, both economically and practically, for many vehicle users. They can surely be helpful in cleaning up London’s air which needs improving because there are still hot spots of air pollution in the City. The Freedom for Drivers Foundation is fully supportive of the Government’s encouragement of electric vehicles although we see potential problems with the banning of the sale of all new internal combustion engined (IC) cars in 2030. That now includes a ban on many hybrid vehicles which can be a good compromise for those who have no off-road parking (and hence cannot easily plug in their vehicles) or do long journeys to remote parts of the country.

2030 is of course a long time away and the range of electric cars may be very different then, and the cost much lower, which are the two things that put off many people from buying them at present. Batteries need improving to extend the range of vehicles and reduce recharging time. But this can probably only be done to a limited extent with Lithium-ion batteries, the predominant technology in use at present.

There was a good article published by the Financial Times recently on the battery problem and how it might be solved by the development of solid-state batteries. It suggested batteries will be available to give a 700km range for cars, although it’s probably a few years away before they could be put into mass production. See https://www.ft.com/content/c4e075b8-7289-4756-9bfe-60bf50f0cf66

With improved batteries, giving longer range and an improved charging infrastructure around the country, one can see that by 2030 there may be no good reason for most people to worry about having to buy an electric vehicle although those with no off-road parking may still face problems as kerb-side charging is still an issue.

Buses in London are still a major contributor to air pollution and although the Mayor has made promises about the increased use of electric or hybrid buses, particularly in central London, those promises are slow in realisation. It will not be until 2037 that all 9,200 buses across London will be zero emission. The Mayor and TfL are also betting on the use of hydrogen. See https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/environment/pollution-and-air-quality/cleaner-buses for more details. Other Mayoral candidates have promised a faster roll out of electric buses.

HGVs and LGVs are another major source of pollution. LGVs (vans) are available in electric form but do not yet seem very popular, probably because of the price. An electric Ford Transit (E-Transit) won’t even be available before 2022.

HGVs have also been a problem because of the limited loads they can carry and the need for frequent recharging.  But UK Bakery company Warburtons have recently announced the acquisition of its first 16 tonne electric truck, a Renault Trucks D Z.E. The vehicle has been given Warburtons orange livery with the slogan “Our electric trucks are the best thing since sliced bread” on the side.

It will be used to operate out of its Enfield bakery and can cover up to 150 kilometres on a single charge. It can carry around six tonnes of bread and bakery products to multiple locations across London.

One can see that the market for new electric vehicles of all kinds is rapidly changing. They are becoming more viable for many people and for many applications. With used IC vehicles being available for many years and the market for second-hand electric vehicles developing, there seems to be no reason to oppose the Government’s policies in principle.

However, there are particular problems in London due to the pace of change and the ULEZ implementation. Those who own older vehicles, particularly diesel ones, will need to buy a newer vehicle come October 2021 or pay £12.50 per day if they live within the South Circular. For retired people, this could be a major if not impossible burden when they are often people who rely on their cars to get around. Tradespeople who use older vans also face the same problem.

The current Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has not considered the plight of such people and how their problems could be relieved. The basic issue is the application of rules about the taxation of vehicles retrospectively, i.e. to vehicles that were legal to drive anywhere when they were purchased. This is morally wrong.

It would not hamper the general move to lower emissions to give such users some relief.    

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