Sadiq Khan could face a stand-off with outer London boroughs as implementation of the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to cover the whole of the capital get underway, the London Assembly heard today.
The controversial latest extension of the ULEZ was signed off by the Mayor at the end of November despite mounting pressure over the cost-of-living impact of the scheme – which will see the owners of older, more polluting vehicles charged £12.50 a day to drive within Greater London – including opposition from a number of outer London boroughs.
Transport for London now has the challenge of installing signage and some 2,750 additional cameras across outer London to enforce the enlarged ULEZ ahead of it coming into force on 29 August this year. The Assembly’s budget committee heard that the work will cost £160 million, as it probed Khan’s transport spending plans for financial year 2023/24.
Borough councils opposed to the scheme could be reluctant to help TfL by installing the cameras on their own borough-controlled roads, warned Conservative committee chair Peter Fortune. “Will you be deploying powers to force them somehow?” he asked.
With fellow Tory Assembly member Nick Rogers suggesting that TfL installing ULEZ infrastructure “in boroughs which have said they don’t want it and where residents have said they don’t want it” was not “a particularly good look” Khan’s deputy mayor for transport Seb Dance confirmed that options were being considered and discussions were underway with the boroughs. “Poor air quality affects everyone,” he said, “not just those in central and inner London. It will be better for everyone if boroughs can cooperate with us, as indeed the vast majority are,” he added.
Hillingdon, Harrow, Bexley, Bromley and Croydon councils, all Tory-run, have already pledged to resist the implementation of the scheme by “all means at their disposal”, while MP for Carshalton & Wallington Elliot Colburn said just before Christmas that London’s Conservative MPs were exploring a possible legal challenge.
But Dance said the scheme will be in place by August, with implementation paid for by Khan’s new Green Bond alongside £110 million for vehicle scrappage funded by City Hall reserves and plans to add an extra one million kilometres to the outer London bus network. “Ultimately we need to provide the alternatives to the private car that people need and the bus is a key component of that,” Dance said.
TfL was also on track to break even in the coming financial year, when government revenue support would come to an end, the meeting heard, with £9 billion in operating costs balanced by almost £7 billion of income from fares and other sources and a £177 million contribution from council tax payers.
Despite government pressure the network’s 2023/23 budget did not include any proposed savings from staff pension schemes – a major concern for rail unions – TfL interim commissioner Andy Lord told the committee.
Difficult decisions remain for Khan on fares increases, with TfL budgeting for four per cent increases in March 2023 and March 2024 but Whitehall expecting London to fall in line with a national rail fare hike of 5.9 per cent. Anything less than that figure could see a reduction in the government’s final tranche of revenue support, with TfL passenger numbers still only at around 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
The public consultation about the Mayor’s overall budget proposals will run until 13 January.
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