Latest Air Quality in Bromley Data Shows No Need for ULEZ Expansion

The latest Air Quality Annual Status Report for the London Borough of Bromley which has just been published shows there is no justification for the expansion of the ULEZ scheme to outer London boroughs like Bromley.

To quote from a Council report: “There were no monitored exceedances of the annual or daily mean for Particulate Matter (PM10) in 2021. The annual average was 15.4μgm-3 . This is well below the national limit of 40μgm-3 .

The annual mean for Particulate Matter (PM2.5) concentration in 2021 was 9.7μgm-3 . This was also well below the national limit of 20μgm-3 .

Historically, the trend in Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) concentration at the Harwood Avenue permanent continuous monitoring station, shows a decreasing trend. There was a slight increase from 2020 to 2021. This was due to life returning to normal following the changes to traffic levels during the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns. The trends in NO2 concentrations for diffusion tube monitoring sites (for those with more than one year of data) for the 2015 – 2021 period also show evidence of a decreasing trend and all sites were below the national limit”.

In summary the measured pollution levels are well below national standards even on busy roads and the trend is downwards. There are unlikely to be any negative health impacts from the current levels of air pollution.

You can see the full report in the Agenda Reports Pack (Item 17) for the Council meeting on the 6th September here: https://cds.bromley.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=127&MId=7414&Ver=4

Roger Lawson

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Mayor Falsely Claims ULEZ has Improved Air in London

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has issued a press release and a report claiming that the air in London is a lot cleaner after the last expansion of the ULEZ. For example, it is suggested that NO2 concentrations alongside roads in inner London are estimated to be 20 per cent lower than they would have been without the ULEZ and its expansion.

This is no doubt an attempt to justify a further expansion to the whole of London which is still open to public consultation.  However if you read the detailed report it is not at all clear why air quality in some locations has improved, however much it is to be welcomed.

Other factors that may have affected the figures have been ignored. For example the report says this: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (“the pandemic”) and individual, regional and national responses to address it, mean that 2020 and 2021 have been different from previous years. This is particularly so for travel and transport as people reacted to lockdown measures and wider concerns about the pandemic by changing their work and travel habits. The pandemic impacted traffic volumes in London in 2020 and 2021, with central London being especially affected. This will in turn have impacted pollution levels across the city. In July 2021 most lockdown restrictions were formally lifted, and much of the economy has now returned to near normal levels of activity. However, central London traffic levels are still not back to pre-pandemic levels”.

It is also worth noting that as vehicles get replaced or upgraded, newer ones tend to be a lot cleaner. There is a natural turnover of vehicles and newer ones are cleaner plus people have been avoiding buying diesel vehicles whose numbers registered in London have fallen. Many people and businesses are also now buying electric vehicles and not just to avoid paying a ULEZ charge.

Another big change is that more London buses are now ULEZ compliant and HGVs have also been replaced with cleaner vehicles. These have had big impacts on air pollution in London along main roads.

But all these changes have not justified the ULEZ expansion and the costs imposed on car and van drivers. Neither do they justify further expansion of the ULEZ which will cost TfL many millions of pounds to implement and cost some drivers a great deal also. If you have not already responded to the public consultation, please do so from the link below:

Clean Air Consultation: https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/cleanair

TfL cannot afford to spend the money on expanding the ULEZ as they are already desperately short of money so why do they want to do it? Probably because it will give them the capability to introduce a London-wide road charging system using the cameras that will be installed.

TfL Report: https://www.london.gov.uk/WHAT-WE-DO/environment/environment-publications/expanded-ultra-low-emission-zone-six-month-report

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Petition Against ULEZ Expansion

Gareth Bacon, Member of Parliament for Orpington, has created a petition you can sign against the expansion of the ULEZ to the rest of London.

He points out that anyone driving an older car will be charged £12.50 per day if Sadiq Khan gets his way.  He says that when household bills are rising due to inflation and global supply problems, the Mayor’s plan will hit the poorest in our community hardest. It will punish people, small businesses, and charities who cannot afford a new vehicle to raise money for Sadiq Khan’s failing administration.

He says he will do everything he can to stop Khan’s plan.

Signing the petition below will help stop the Mayor’s plan by showing the level of opposition to the expansion of ULEZ.

Sign the petition here: https://www.garethbacon.com/stop-ulez-expansion and stop Sadiq Khan’s new tax. And please share it with friends.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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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.htm

Roger Lawson

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Sadiq Khan’s Plan to Screw Drivers Even More

Two days ago (on 17/01/2022) I pointed out on this blog that the Mayor’s Budget document spelled out that road pricing in London was definitely anticipated. His budgets for future years depend on it.

It became clearer what he is planning yesterday when both the BBC and London Evening Standard provided more details of the Mayor’s plan – see links below.

His proposals include a small daily charge on everyone who drives in London – perhaps £2. He claims this is required based on a report commissioned by City Hall that found that a 27% reduction in London’s car traffic was required by 2030 to meet net-zero ambitions. He has the powers to introduce this but he is also considering a London entry charge for anyone who drives in from outside. A boundary charge (of perhaps £3.5 per day) would require Government consent when they don’t currently favour it.

Longer term, by the end of the decade, he would like to introduce a pay- per-mile system although the technology to do that is not yet available.

In the meantime it looks very likely that he will extend the ULEZ to the whole of London.

The Mayor has said “I have got to make sure there is a disincentive to drive your car, particularly if it is petrol or diesel, when there are alternatives, like public transport”. Yes he would like to force everyone to use public transport which of course he has a financial incentive to advocate. It’s yet another reason to take TfL out of the control of the Mayor.

The justification for these measures is to tackle air pollution and defeat climate change. It certainly won’t do the latter and there is a very good debunking of the claims of death from air pollution on the web site Not a Lot of People Know That – see link below.

Improving air quality is certainly something the Freedom for Drivers Foundation supports but there needs to be a clear cost/benefit and the measures our national Government has been taking have been by far the most effective to reduce air pollution. London’s measures introduced by Sadiq Khan have been enormously financially damaging with very little benefit. He postures about saving the world while spending your money ineffectively.

BBC Report: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-60030127

Evening Standard Report: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/sadiq-khan-clean-air-charge-petrol-diesel-cars-ulez-expansion-london-b977223.html?

Deaths from Air Pollution: https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2017/08/15/claims-of-40000-deaths-from-air-pollution-debunked-by-death-statistics/

Roger Lawson

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Making London Transport Sustainable

The battle over funding for London’s Transport goes on.  At the time of writing the government has granted a paltry 7-day extension of funds to TfL while demanding Mayor Sadiq Khan comes up with alternative proposals for how he will generate an extra £500m – £1bn a year to fund his apparently unsustainable transport system.  This while at the same time the Government is encouraging people to work from home again, significantly reducing public transport usage once more. In granting this 7-day extension it’s interesting to note the plans proposed by Khan, which the government rightly rejected.  These were:

•         A return of VED paid by London car owners to TfL

•         A Greater London Boundary Charge, charging motorists who come from outside London into it £3.50 a day.

•         A levy on deliveries made for online purchases, targeting delivery drivers.

Other ideas still on the table include raising the Congestion Charge and ULEZ tax rates.  The latter would be after the recently expanded zone failed to raise the income anticipated. Khan may speak of how it has reduced the number of polluting vehicles, but you do not introduce a new tax without planning on it raising substantially more revenue in the future.

What do all the above have in common? They are all targeting private motor vehicles – the car and delivery vans. Khan’s message is crystal clear: he wants to raise money from drivers rather than tackle the basic problem that public transport users in London do not pay for the cost of the services that are provided. It’s unsustainable.

Fundamental reform is needed to make transport in London more sustainable. Only then will Sadiq Khan need to stop asking the Government for more bail-outs.

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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.htm . 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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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.htm

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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