Furious motorists blast Sadiq Khan over plans to expand ULEZ

Sadiq Khan’s ‘money grab on motorists’: Furious homeowners blast Mayor over plans to expand ULEZ and slap drivers with £12 charge OUTSIDE of London

  • Transport for London (TfL) consulting on expanding ULEZ to cover all of capital
  • Families living in Dartford who travel into neighbouring Bexley will be hit by cost
  • Mr Khan says he is waging ‘war on poisonous air’ and tackling fumes in London

Motorists who live outside the capital have blasted Sadiq Khan’s plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and increasing fines to £180 from next January as a ‘money grab’ on drivers.

Transport for London (TfL) is consulting on expanding the area to cover the whole of Greater London – including Bromley, Wembley, Croydon, Kingston Upon Thames and Ealing – from August next year.

However, families who live in Dartford and travel into neighbouring Bexley will be forced to fork out the ‘unavoidable’ £12.50-a-day to drive in the ULEZ, placing an extra burden on households amid the cost of living crisis. 

Mr Khan says he is waging ‘war on poisonous air’ and tackling toxic fumes in and around the capital through the scheme.

But motorists have dismissed the charge as just ‘another tax’ on drivers – claiming it discriminates against those unable to invest in newer eco-friendly cars or afford the ‘considerable’ expense.

The new proposal also includes increasing the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) level from £160 to £180 for non-payment of the ULEZ and Congestion Charge from January 2023. This charge is reduced by 50 per cent if paid in 14 days. 

Transport for London is consulting on expanding the ULEZ to cover the whole of Greater London – including Bromley, Wembley, Croydon, Kingston Upon Thames and Ealing – from August next year (pictured)

Sadiq Khan (pictured) says he is waging ‘war on poisonous air’ and tackling toxic fumes in and around the capital through the scheme 

Bryan Lydon, 52, has a 2014 diesel Hyundai which would fall foul of the new requirements should ULEZ be extended.

Mr Lydon said: ‘We are going to have to change our vehicle or incur considerable costs.’

He agrees urgent action needs to be taken to address the climate crisis, but believes people should be afforded more time, particularly in light of the cost of living crisis.

He said: ‘Look at the fires we have had last week, something needs to be done.

‘However you can’t just set it out for a year’s time.

‘You need two to two-and-a-half-years to plan ahead. Buying a vehicle is the second biggest cost after your house.’

Fellow Dartford resident Edward Hawkes, 55, believes it is ‘unfair’ to impose a tax on Kent motorists who have no say over the charge.

He has recently moved from Bexleyheath to Dartford and would face having to scrap his diesel motor should the ULEZ be expanded.

Mr Hawkes said: ‘When you think about it, just to go to Crayford Sainsbury’s, which is only a mile away, it is going to cost you £12.

‘It is stopping me from going into London where I would have gone just to pick something up.

Motorists have dismissed the charge as just ‘another tax’ on drivers – claiming it discriminates against those unable to invest in newer eco-friendly cars or afford the ‘considerable’ expense. Pictured: A sign indicating Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) on a street in London

‘We are not a London borough yet Sadiq Khan wants us to pay for the ULEZ. It is another tax London is trying to give everyone.’

Mr Hawkes also believes it could have an impact on local businesses, who may miss out.

What is the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) and do you need to pay it ?

The easiest way to establish whether you will need to pay for using the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) is by using Transport for London’s numberplate checker here

The Ulez operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year except Christmas Day.

Most vehicles need to meet the Ulez emissions standards or the driver must pay a £12.50 daily charge to drive inside the zone, which includes cars, motorcycles, vans and specialist vehicles (up to and including 3.5 tonnes) and minibuses (up to and including 5 tonnes).

Residents of the Congestion Charge area also need to pay the charge, as do motorists living within the Ulez zone when they drive around and go past a Ulez camera – but not on days that their car is left in the driveway.

Lorries, vans or specialist heavy vehicles (over 3.5 tonnes) and buses, minibuses and coaches (over 5 tonnes) do not need to pay the Ulez charge.

The zone now covers all areas within the North and South Circular roads after being expanded in October last year. The North Circular (A406) and South Circular (A205) roads are not in the zone.

Anyone driving into London in a diesel car that doesn’t meet Euro 6 emission standards – generally motors registered after September 2015 – has to pay a daily £12.50 levy to enter the zone.

For petrol car drivers, only vehicles that fail to meet Euro 4 standards – registered after 2005 – are charged under the scheme’s existing rules.

Drivers who fail to pay receive a £160 fine, which is cut to £80 if paid within a fortnight of receiving a penalty notice.

But cafe boss Gurjit Randhawa, owner of two Esquires Coffee shops either side of the border in Dartford and Crayford, is remaining upbeat.

He said: ‘It will have an impact on some people for sure.

‘But hopefully, being positive, I don’t think it will have much of an impact on my business as much as it will on others.’

The franchise owner believes his customer base will be largely unaffected, but suppliers and market traders in Dartford could be hit.

Mr Randhawa added: ‘One of my suppliers has to buy a new lorry.

‘Even now when he goes to Spitalfields Market he takes a slightly different route.’

MPs and councillors from across the political divide in Dartford have widely condemned the mayor’s plans.

Conservative MP for Dartford Gareth Johnson is a vocal critic of ULEZ’s extension which he says will leave thousands of people ‘financially disadvantaged’.

Earlier this month he wrote to TfL outlining his concerns.

Mr Johnson said: ‘Many streets in Dartford border London and if the ULEZ is extended it will mean people in Dartford, who have to cross into London to simply leave their homes, will be charged.

‘Effectively, they will be forced to pay this daily charge or a receive a fine from a council area they do not live in nor do they elect.’

Mr Johnson, a government whip, also criticised the absence of a scrappage scheme for residents in Dartford with only ‘Londoners’ eligible.

If plans go ahead fines could also be increased from £160 to £180.

He believes this is simply another way for financially-hit TfL to raise extra funds – and does not believe it is fair to levy such charges on Dartford residents.

Mr Johnson added: ‘As I have said before, this is a stealth tax on Dartfordians and will hit the poorest the hardest.

‘This would be a tax imposed on Dartfordians, who have no say in what the London mayor does as they do not vote for him.’

Worries over the lack of help for low-income motorists has prompted calls for TfL and the Mayor to delay the extension.

Councillors in Dartford have also joined calls to pause the planned expansion, stressing the harmful financial impact on residents.

Coun. Kelly Grehan, Leader of the Labour Group, said: ‘Everyone in Dartford knows our town suffers from dangerous levels of air pollution, so we want to see a decline in traffic levels and levels of pollution.

‘However, we do not believe expanding the ULEZ zone at this time is the right way to do it.

‘In the middle of a cost of living crisis, many Dartford residents are experiencing pressure on their household budgets and simply will not be able to afford the additional cost of the proposed daily charge to drive to work.

The Ulez expansion is the latest phase of Mr Khan’s so-called ‘war on motorists’ in recent years, which has included Low Traffic Neighbourhoods that shut some roads to through-traffic but resulted in higher local congestion for many areas

‘We cannot support any measure that may result in making it more expensive for ordinary working people to travel to their jobs, many of whom are the essential workers who helped keep London moving throughout the pandemic.’

She said she wants to see more bus routes, despite Kent County Council axing 38 subsidised routes from October.

She also believes families shouldn’t be asked to ‘bear the brunt’ of the costs, after a Freedom of Information request revealed it would cost £200 million to implement the latest expansion.

According to a new report from TfL the extension has so far had very little impact with no change in levels of pollutants since it expanded to the North and South Circular roads in October.

TfL believes if a larger zone was introduced, it would have a significant impact by the end of 2023.

It is estimated that the number of cars not meeting the tough standards each day in outer London would fall from 160,000 to 46,000 and the number of vans from 42,000 to 26,000.

A TfL spokesperson said: ‘A larger ULEZ is vital for those living in the capital, especially those in outer London where air pollution has not fallen as fast as in central and inner London.

‘It will also benefit those living outside it. In 2019, toxic air contributed to more than 4,000 premature deaths in the capital, with the greatest number in outer London, and we urgently need to address this issue.

‘More extreme weather events are predicted if the world fails to act to reduce carbon emissions, with these already being seen in the high temperatures that are currently being experienced.

‘We recognise that we need to help people shift to cleaner vehicles and the Mayor invested £61 million to support people do that for the existing ULEZ schemes.’

By the time the ULEZ is introduced it is expected around 95 per cent of vehicles will be compliant.

The Mayor has said he will deliver ‘as large a scrappage scheme as is feasible’ and will consider views expressed as part of the consultation as to what its scope and criteria should be.

Plans for an ultra-low emissions zone were first laid out by then mayor Boris Johnson and taken forward by his successor Mr Khan.

The ULEZ has operated since April 2019, but previously only covered the same area of central London as the Congestion Charge.

It now includes all areas within the North and South Circular roads in an attempt to boost air quality.

TfL says the cash it receives from the ULEZ is reinvested into improving London’s transport network and to improve air quality. It insists ‘we don’t make a profit’ from the scheme.

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