Plans to extend the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) London-wide remain on track for a scheduled 29 August start Sadiq Khan confirmed today, amid new clashes with London Assembly Conservatives over the impact of the controversial scheme.
Figures released as the Mayor was facing Assembly members (AMs) at the regular Mayor’s Question Time session suggest that 16 per cent of vehicles registered in the outer London area to be covered by the zone’s next enlargement could fail to meet emissions standards, meaning they would face a daily £12.50 charge to drive within the capital.
The new figures, compiled from official vehicle registration data by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), show that areas including Sutton and Harrow could have some 16,000 non-compliant vehicles in them, said Susan Hall, former leader of the Assembly’s Tory group and now an aspiring mayoral candidate. “These vehicles almost certainly belong to hard-working Londoners, who don’t have as much money as some. They are going to be put in a dire situation because of this,” she told Khan.
But the Mayor was sticking with Transport for London’s latest assessment that some 90 per cent of vehicles driving within the outer London area to be encompassed by the ULEZ meet its pollution standards. This figure, which TfL argues is more accurate, is arrived at using anonymised data from its network of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras. According to TfL, SMMT data can include vehicles registered in London, such as company fleets, but not actually being driven in the city.
ANPR data had been adopted as the standard measure since 2016, said Khan – while being careful to describe its current findings as “nine out of 10 cars seen driving in outer London” already meeting ULEZ standards, having previously incorrectly referred to nine out of 10 “households” rather than vehicles.
Khan said six million visits had been paid to the TfL website’s “check your vehicle” page and more than £20 million had already been paid out from its £110 million scrappage scheme, helping lower-paid Londoners and those on certain disability benefits plus eligible small businesses and charities to replace or upgrade non-compliant vehicles. He said “thousands” of applications for funding are being processed.
He called on Assembly Tories to back his requests to Whitehall for more funding for scrappage, arguing that the ULEZ expansion was a “central element” of the capital’s fight against “air pollution, climate crisis and congestion” and would go ahead as planned.
Pressed on another form of polluting transport, private jet planes, Khan pulled back from agreeing with Green party AM Zack Polanski that this “preserve of the super-rich” should be outlawed completely.
The UK had become Europe’s “private jet capital”, topping the continent’s league table with more flights than from any other country, Polanski said, with 17,000 private jets a year taking off within the Greater London area alone.
Paris, Nice and Geneva were the most popular destinations for flights from London using jets up to 14 times more polluting per passenger than commercial flights and 50 times more polluting than trains, Khan said.
“These flights must be rapidly reduced if we are serious about tackling climate change. We should be encouraging people to take more sustainable journeys,” he went on, pointing out too that while City Hall has no power to regulate air travel, he has formally objected to all proposals to expand London’s airports.
But the Mayor would not be drawn on Polanski’s urging to “tackle the wealthiest” with a call for an outright ban. “I’m not in favour of banning private jets. They should not be used where there are alternatives. I can imagine a scenario where there might not be an alternative, though that should be exceptional,” Khan said.
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