It looks like London mayor Sadiq Khan wants to have less pollution by cars in Greater London. This can only be welcomed if such a plan takes into account the citizens of the metropolis, who are less able to buy such non-polluting cars.
Mr Khan has confirmed the Ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) will be extended to the whole of Greater London by the end of August 2023. This includes Britain’s most popular airport, where travellers will be asked to pay £12.50 to drive into the Ulez zone, plus Heathrow’s existing £5 drop-off charge. For sure, this shall make it more expensive for all those who come out of the UK to visit London. (You also may not forget the continental Europeans now also have to buy a passport to visit the UK. – In my village that will cost me 350+ € for a passport valid for 5 years – but a person is not going to give so much extra money just for one visit to Britain.)
The previous Ultra-low emissions zone (launched by Mr Khan in April 2019) took already care that most tourist places in London were places to be avoided by car for many tourists. In a way, such low-emission zones can act as a deterrent to road users with older (and therefore more polluting) cars by charging them a daily fee to enter the zone.
When first introduced, the Ulez operated in the same area as the congestion charge, which currently charges £15 a day. In the mayor’s first expansion in October 2021, the zone stretched to cover everywhere within the North and South Circular roads.
However, what Mr Khan now presented would mean that the ultra low-emission zone will cover the whole of Greater London from August 29 2023. This including the area of Heathrow Airport.
Most petrol car owners whose vehicle was first registered before 2006, and most diesel car owners whose vehicles were first registered before 2015 will face the Ulez charge if they enter the zone. But also driving vans and motorcycles registered before 2007 shall have to face the charge.
It is hoped for that the new zone will reduce the number of the most polluting vehicles in the capital by a further 20,000 to 40,000 each day, City Hall said earlier this year.
Mr DiCaprio, the star of films such as Titanic, Catch Me if You Can and The Beach, is pleased with that proposition and took to social media to lavish praise on Mr Khan for expanding Ulez, saying:
“[It] will mean five million more people breathing cleaner air, and will help to build a better, greener, fairer London for everyone..”
In 2019, he already praised Mr Khan
“for taking the lead on tackling air pollution in London”,
“Clean air is a human right.”
But there are a whole bunch of Greater London residents who do still have older cars or have relatives living outside London who want to visit them now and then, but will now face that extra toll.
Now Boris Johnson with several Tory members, like Mr Johnson’s fellow former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith; the former Transport Secretary Chris Grayling; and current minister for London, Paul Scully, are facing off against Leonardo DiCaprio in a row over Sadiq Khan’s decision to target motorists by expanding the London Ultra-low emission zone (Ulez).
Some 60pc of respondents to a public consultation opposed Mr Khan’s plans to expand Ulez across all of Greater London.
In the letter, which was coordinated by the Orpington MP Gareth Bacon, MPs said Mr Khan’s decision is
“undemocratic and a hammer blow to households’ budgets”.
However, they rightly point out that several households in the now designated area will fall under this additional cost, even though their housing already causes a heavy cost in the household budget. Of course, it cannot go on that those who have to work in the metropolis will have to watch how now from their wages that extra cost will leave them with even less household money.
The MPs said:
“The Ulez was never intended to apply to outer London. This is a smash and grab raid on drivers’ wallets that has nothing to do with air quality and everything to do with Khan’s mismanagement of [Transport for London’s] finances. And it comes at the worst possible time for household income.”
Despite insisting that he would not go ahead with Ulez expansion if there was overwhelming opposition to it, Mr Khan told the Telegraph last week:
“I didn’t call a referendum; this was a consultation.”
The idea of reducing emissions from cars can be lauded, but then one has to provide a dignified alternative. In that respect, public transport, especially with the underground, is not so bad, but it will still need further improvement so that people are not stuck like sardines to each other in overcrowded underground cars.
Mr Khan wants to go even further, having direct charges levied for the use of roads, including road tolls, distance or time-based fees, congestion charges and charges designed to discourage the use of certain classes of vehicle, fuel sources or more polluting vehicles. He is considering to roll out a “Singapore-style” network of toll roads across London once drivers have switched to electric vehicles. The London mayor said that road pricing will be introduced to replace the congestion charge and levies for the Ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) that could use a network of cameras across the capital.
Mr Khan reaffirmed his flagship Ulez policy on Thursday as part of Transport for London’s business plan to invest £8.1 billion in London’s road and rail networks.
Improvements to the capital’s public transport system include replacing Piccadilly line trains with a new fleet that would have the capability to be run driverless if the Government signs-off money to upgrade signals and platforms.