London has clinched the title of the world’s largest pollution charging zone following the extension of the much-debated ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) across the entire capital.
Those driving non-compliant vehicles within this zone face a daily £12.50 fee or a potential £180 fine (reduced to £90 if paid within 14 days).
Stern opposition has arisen against the scheme, countered in part by a £160 million initiative from Transport for London (TfL) to provide grants for retiring non-compliant vehicles.
Protests have materialised, with the self-proclaimed “Blade Runners” targeting newly installed enforcement cameras, resulting in 288 recorded camera-related crimes as of August 1, according to London’s Met Police.
An anti-ULEZ protest is expected to take place today outside Downing Street from midday.
‘It’s Not About Air Pollution’
Transport Secretary Mark Harper told GB News this morning, “I would stop [the expansion] if I had the power to do so.” He accentuated financial concerns, saying, “It’s not about air pollution, it’s about a money-raising exercise and this is absolutely not the time to be putting all those costs on hard-pressed and hard-working Londoners and those in the area outside London.”
Speaking to Times Radio, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said, “The policy to clean the air in London is not anti-car or anti-motorist.”
He highlighted that “nine out of ten cars seen driving in outer London on an average day are already compliant.”
Mr. Khan pledged support for non-compliant vehicle owners, stating, “They themselves, the drivers, breathe in pollutants, and that’s why I’ve announced that every single driver in London of a car or motorbike, every small business with a van, every charity with a minibus, will receive financial support [for scrapping non-compliant vehicles].”
Questions regarding government funding for the scrappage scheme persist from the mayor’s camp, prompting a Government spokeswoman to clarify the allocation of funds to TfL, saying: “Both transport and air quality are devolved to London, which is why they are the direct responsibility of the Mayor of London.
“In fact, the Government has provided TfL £6 billion since 2020 to keep public transport moving and almost £102 million for projects specifically targeted to help tackle air pollution.”
As debate over the ULEZ expansion reverberates with political rhetoric from both camps, its unpopularity is perceived to have influenced Labour’s recent by-election performance in Uxbridge, where the Conservatives retained a majority, following Boris Johnson’s resignation as an MP.
‘It’s Wrong To Punish’ Businesses
Speaking to the Epoch Times via text, local businessman and owner of H. Forman and Son, Lance Forman, said, “£12.50 per day may not seem much to the mayor of London but for small businesses and people who need to get to work in their older cars it’s a fortune—£3,000 per year after tax.
“In my own business, most staff arrive at 4:00 a.m. when public transport options are non-existent or limited at best. It’s wrong to punish them in this way—even more so when the evidence about air quality has been shown to be dubious.”
Mr. Forman, the former member of the European Parliament continued, saying: “Forcing people into the Tube where the air quality is even worse is completely unethical and shows what a total scam this new policy by Sadiq Khan is.”
Appealing to claims that air pollution was a major factor in the decision for the expansion, Mr. Khan told PA Media: “It’s really heartbreaking when you get an in-patient ward and see the consequences of air pollution, but also it is inspiring to see that some of these policies can transform people’s lives.”
Just one person has officially been recorded as dying from air pollution in the capital since records began, but Mr. Khan has maintained that poor air quality has contributed to other illnesses.