ULEZ Revenue and Benefits – Not As Expected

ULEZ SignTransport for London (TfL) have released some figures for the first six months of the ULEZ scheme (for April to September 2019). The bad news for the Mayor is that the income from the scheme in fees paid by non-compliant vehicle owners and penalty charges is much less than expected.

There was revenue of £31 million from charges paid (12.50 per day for cars, vans and motorcycles and £100 for HGVs and buses). Plus there was £11 million from penalty charges. One driver managed to collect 81 penalty charges but otherwise it is the typically high figure you see from camera enforced schemes where many people don’t realise they have entered the charging zone or forget to pay.

But the overall income of £41 million, equivalent to £82 million per annum, is much less than originally anticipated. Income in the first year was originally estimated to be £174m and costs £47m, producing a surplus of £127m. So the surplus is likely to be a fraction of that originally anticipated at only £35 million. See https://tinyurl.com/y4w6pwuk for the original estimates.

It would seem likely that more vehicle users than anticipated have switched to newer vehicles with the proportion of non-compliant vehicles falling rapidly to only 25% in September. The overall number of vehicles also appears to be falling. The low numbers of non-compliant vehicles means that the income will also fall substantially in the second half of the year thus reducing even further the anticipated surplus so it could be much less than even £35 million. This will put yet another hole in the Mayor’s financial budget for TfL which is already in a dire state.

The good news (at least for those who believe that NOX air pollution is a major health hazard – we do not), is that NOX emissions from road transport in the central zone are estimated to have fallen by 31%. That is probably consistent with the original estimates that there would be a fall in NOX emissions of 17% by 2021 as only about half of such emissions come from road transport and such emissions are falling rapidly anyway as the vehicle fleet is renewed.

Only a small reduction in CO2 emissions is reported, and no figures on particulates (PM) are yet reported. You can read the full TfL report here: https://tinyurl.com/y2h63dxc

We still believe that this is a very expensive scheme that is imposing enormous costs on many vehicle owners with very marginal benefits in terms of air pollution. It is unclear whether NOX actually has any negative health impacts – see our report here that covers the air pollution issue in depth: https://tinyurl.com/yx9bk9kg . We would also like to see some actual measurements of NOX rather than just estimates.

There has never been any proper cost/benefit justification for this scheme but the Mayor no doubt saw it as a means to plug the holes in his TfL budget with the ULEZ tax. In reality it’s going to raise a lot less than anticipated.

Readers should make sure they oppose the expansion of the ULEZ to the North/South Circular in 2021 which will cover many more people.

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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: https://www.abd.org.uk/air-quality-vehicles-truth/

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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Press Release: How Many People Will Be Affected by the ULEZ? We Give the Answers:


The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was introduced in the central London zone this month. But in 2021 it will cover the whole of London within the North/South Circular and there is nothing stopping the Mayor extending it to the rest of London soon after. But how many car and van drivers will be affected and have to pay the £12.50 daily charge?

To answer that question we have done a survey of vehicles on the roads in a number of London boroughs, both within and without the North/South Circular. It showed that overall 30.2% of vehicles will be paying the ULEZ charge unless their owners buy a new vehicle before 2021.

Some vehicles would be scrapped anyway as it is estimated that 3% of cars are scrapped each year as owners replace them with new vehicles or stop driving altogether. But that still means that the vast majority of those currently using “non-compliant” cars and vans will need to buy new vehicles to avoid paying £12.50 every day. Often the people affected will be those least likely to have the money to buy new cars or vans as most of the non-compliant vehicles are older ones that the less wealthy have purchased.

Van owners are likely to be particularly hard hit because 52.3% of those were identified to be non-compliant.

Was there any difference between richer or poorer boroughs, or between those within the North/South Circular? In essence there was not which shows that those who drive within that ring road have not so far taken any notice of the impending ULEZ charge.

According to TfL provisional data from within the central zone in April show 70% of vehicles are compliant which surely demonstrates that it is having little impact on vehicle ownership as that is no different to those who drive in outer London.

It is clear that the impact of the London ULEZ charge, and other similar Clean Air Zone (CAZ) schemes in other major cities will have an enormous financial impact on vehicle owners. Most of those who will be affected seem to be unaware of what is going to hit them in their pockets very soon.

Campaign Director Roger Lawson who is leading the fight against the Mayor’s tax raising measure had this to say: “There is no justification for the ULEZ scheme on environmental or health grounds. These statistics show exactly what the cost will be to Londoners. There are 2.5 million licensed cars in London alone, ignoring the large numbers who drive into London from outside. With 30% of those vehicles subject to the ULEZ charge you can see how big a money spinner the ULEZ charge will be for the Mayor and the devastating financial impact it will have on the vehicle owners if they wish to avoid paying the tax”.

There is of course no guarantee that the ULEZ scheme will not be amended to include currently compliant vehicles at a later date, or that the charge will not be increased (the Congestion Charge has more than doubled since it was first introduced). The Mayor will undoubtedly be keen to ensure the money keeps rolling in.

Roger Lawson

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  1. To check whether a vehicle is compliant with the ULEZ go here: https://tinyurl.com/ya4usuqr
  2. For more information see this page of our web site covering our campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and the ULEZ, the financial facts and spurious environmental claims: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment.htm
  3. The survey was taken by recording the registration numbers of 245 passing vehicles on roads in the following areas of South-East London: Blackheath, Lewisham, Charlton, Chislehurst and Plumstead (the first two being within the North/South Circular, the latter outside). Only cars and vans were recorded. The registration number was later checked for whether the vehicle is complaint or not using the aforementioned link. There was no statistically significant variation between the locations although wealthier locations showed a slightly higher proportion of non-compliant vehicles (33.3%) perhaps because there is a higher proportion of relatively new, but not very new, diesel vehicles owned by residents in those areas.

National Press Waking Up to ULEZ Impact

The Daily Mail ran a story on the 9th December spelling out the enormous impact that the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will have on drivers in London. They suggest a million motorists will be paying £12.50 every day once the ULEZ zone is expanded to within the North/South Circular. This could generate as much as £700 million to £1.5 billion a year in revenues for Transport for London (TfL) they also suggested. See the Mail story here (it was also covered by the Sun and the Times newspapers): https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6476639/Londons-new-ultra-low-emission-zone-force-million-motorists-pay-12-50-day.html

But their figures probably do not take into the real impact because TfL have been misleading people about which vehicles will be exempt – see our previous blog article here on that: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2018/12/07/press-release-uk-drivers-sleepwalking-into-macron-style-taxes-on-eco-hatchbacks/

Roger Lawson

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Press Release: UK Drivers Sleepwalking Into Macron Style Taxes On Eco Hatchbacks

Modest three years old ‘eco branded’ family hatchbacks will soon be effectively banned from inside the London North and South Circular roads. That approach will likely be copied in cities and towns across the UK:

Owners of many just over three years old top selling diesel hatchbacks branded ‘eco’ or ‘blue’ will soon wake up to a shock as huge charges will effectively ban cars from towns and cities including some 2015 registered ‘Eco’ or ‘Blue’ branded Fiestas, Focus, Golfs, Corsas, Astras etc (see list below). When these charges are imposed owners will see their cars plummet in value.

Many people think that as they don’t drive in London, or that they drive newish ‘eco’ cars, this won’t affect them.  They are wrong. The UK Government have given powers to local authorities to introduce emissions-based charges pretty much at their whim and with no justification.

Councils all over the UK are looking to copy Sadiq Khan’s lead, Manchester being well advanced in its plan.  Values of the many affected cars, and even some that are not currently affected, will fall due to fear of future charges long before they even happen. If the government wish to avoid ‘Yellow Vest’ style protests they need to act now, remove such powers from local authorities and ban all such schemes.

Check your car here: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/ultra-low-emission-zone/vrm-checker-ulez

Here are just some of the cars falling foul of ULEZ charges:

2015 Citroen C3 Edition 1.6 Bluehdi 100 Edition 5dr 90bhp
2015 Citroen C4 1.6 e-HDi Airdream VTR+ Hatchback 5dr Diesel 115bhp
2015 Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi ECOnetic Style 5dr  94bhp
2015 Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi 115 Zetec 5dr  113bhp
2015 Fiat Panda 1.2 MULTIJET POP 5d 75 BHP
2015 Fiat 500 Lounge1.3  Multijet 3dr 95bhp
2015 Nissan Juke 1.5 ACENTA DCi 5 DOOR 110 BHP
2015 Renault Clio 1.5 dCi ECO Expression + 5dr 90bhp
2015 Toyota Auris 1.4 D-4D Excel (s/s) 5dr 90bhp
2015 Vauxhall Corsa 1.3CDTi Ecoflex Design 94BHP
2015 Vauxhall Astra 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex Elite 163 bhp
2015 Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 16V Ecoflex Design 5dr 108bhp
2014 VW Golf 1.6tdi estate 89 bhp and 108 bhp
2015 VW Golf hatch 1.6tdi Bluemotion tech S 104bhp
2015 VW Golf Bluemotion 1.6tdi estate 108bhp

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