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Opinion: Why London’s ULEZ Car Charge Makes No Sense

By Calum Brown Apr 08, 2019
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By Calum Brown Apr 08, 2019
The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charge came into effect as of midnight. However, upon closer inspection, is the scheme only a money grabbing exercise? We certainly think so...

Did you purchase a diesel car after encouragement from the last Labour Government’s scrappage scheme? Well, the Mayor of London and his minions have a new scheme to counteract your well-placed actions. You will now be fined £24 per day for daring to drive through London’s city centre, with the vehicle you bought upon departmental advice. Fool be us for trusting the Government, right?

On paper, the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) scheme – which came into force at midnight on the 8th of April – makes perfect sense. According to various Government-funded health reports, people are suffering because of automotive pollution. Buses, taxis and heavy-duty articulated trucks are pumping out enough toxins to gift small children various lung conditions.

Transport for London (TfL) has announced their hopes that the move will reduce the number of vehicles cluttering up tight-knit roads in Westminster and London’s City centre. Yet, the same claim was made when the Congestion Charge was introduced, charging individuals to sit in ex-Mayor of London Ken Livingston’s traffic jam. And traffic numbers have barely changed.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has stated that it was ‘important we make progress’ in attacking London’s infected air. Organisations such as Mums for Lungs have welcomed the action. But what they don’t realize is that their children will continue to develop respiratory problems, for nothing will change.

For starters, all 21,000 Black Cabs registered for use in London are exempt from the ULEZ. Most of these taxis are far from new, and pollute more than a classic Mini. Yet, for obvious reasons, these taxis will not pay the ULEZ charge. However, continuing to operate within the most congested pollution spots within the city, the levels of Carbon Dioxide within the air won’t be depleted anytime soon.

Then there’s the concept that ambulances and other emergency vehicles are not exempt from the new charge – which is enforced by cameras, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. At least, according to initial reports. So that'll be the taxpayer lumped with yet more cost, then. 

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For the ‘common man’, some older petrol cars will be affected, alongside diesel-powered vehicles as young as three years old. If owners of certain vehicles don’t meet the latest emission standards, known as Euro 6, then they can expect to fork out the full whack.

Euro 6 became mandatory for factory-fresh vehicles as of September 2015. Naturally, the majority of Britain’s 37.3 million road legal vehicles won’t meet these regulations. It’s from here that we fail to see how paying money reduces pollution.

Upon looking at real-life situations, the main result will purely find those who can’t afford a new car having to cough up money. This, in turn, reduces any chance of keeping wage segments to improve personal life.

Bikers haven’t escaped ULEZ. In essence, they contribute a tiny proportion but will be charged the same as a V12 BMW. Yet idling buses that remain only half full continue to pump fumes into the street. Again, levels of smog therefore won’t change.

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Furthermore, certain classics are exempt from the fee. If you own a fuel-guzzling Range Rover or pollutant heavy diesel built before January 1, 1980, then you can travel through without charge. In contrast, coaches and trucks that fail to meet emission levels will have to pay £100 per day.

Boiled down, many of us believe that it’s all in the name of fund generation. Through calculation, income from 68,000 vehicles entering London’s city perimeters could create in excess of £310 million. That seems to fill a rather suspicious deficit hole from Sadiq Khan’s overspend with the proposed Cross Rails 2 railway project.

Basically, this is a ‘Pay-to-Pollute’ scheme where traffic won’t change, but the already burdened commuter has yet another expense to enjoy. There are thousands of people who work awkward hours and have to take their own personal transport into the city. Nurses, doctors, security staff, emergency service providers; and they will all be charged a ludicrous amount of money traveling through in their Government-affirmed diesel car. The diesel car they still have three years to pay off. It’s a joke.

Then there is the concept that somebody on night shift has to pay twice, once for the ticket to get into London and then once again to get home after midnight. Whereas those travelling through in the day pay £24 for complete access to share their harmful exhaust emissions.

So – traffic will remain the same. Congestion won’t be easing up anytime soon. Air quality won’t be improving. Everybody will continue to endure an agonising, debilitating death at the hands of various carbon-based diseases. But it’s all ok, because the governing body will make a mountain of cash to finance services that you’ll be charged for to use in the first place. It honestly feels like a con.

What we will say is this. Should you live or work within the zone, good luck getting a tradesman to quote a job up for you. And just as a final kick in the knackers, the scheme could be rolled out to all areas within the Northern and Southern circular. Costing millions of residents a fortune.

What a mess. 

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