Smart Transport

Mayor of London proposes journey charge from 2024 to cut car travel

London road with cycle lane

The Mayor of London is looking to introduce new charges that aim to deter vehicles from driving into and around Greater London.

A new Element Energy net zero by 2030 report comissiond by the Mayor is looking at multiple proposals to reduce car journeys across Greater London.

The report sets out that to achieve anywhere near a 27% reduction in car vehicle kilometres, London will need a new kind of road user charging system implemented by the end of the decade at the latest.

Such a system could abolish all existing road user charges – such as the Congestion Charge and ULEZ - and replace them with "a simple and fair scheme" where drivers pay per mile, with different rates depending on how polluting vehicles are, the level of congestion in the area and access to public transport.

Subject to consultation, it is likely there would be exemptions and discounts for those on low incomes and with disabilities, as well as consideration around support for charities and small businesses.

Transport for London (TfL) says it will launch a public consultation on the short-term options, speaking to local government and businesses about the way forward.

Subject to consultation and feasibility, the chosen scheme would be implemented by May 2024.  

Some of the proposals in the report include extending the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) beyond the north and south circular roads to cover the whole of Greater London, using the current charge level and emissions standards.

Khan is also proposing to modify the ULEZ to build on the existing scheme to include a small clean air charge.

This would operate across all of Greater London “for all but the cleanest vehicles to nudge behaviour and reduce the number of short journeys by car”.

There would also be a Greater London boundary charge, which would charge a “small fee” to non-London registered vehicles entering Greater London.

The Mayor said this is in response to the increase in cars from outside London travelling into the city seen in recent years.

Khan said that in order to reduce transport emissions to meet net zero by 2030, the capital will need to see a “significant shift” away from petrol and diesel vehicle use. This must also need to be met with an increase in walking, cycling, greater public transport use and cleaner vehicles.

At the moment, just two per cent of vehicles on the roads in London are electric.

Khan, said: “Nearly half of Londoners don’t own a car, but they are disproportionally feeling the damaging consequences polluting vehicles are causing.   

“We have too often seen measures to tackle air pollution and the climate emergency delayed around the world because it’s viewed as being too hard or politically inconvenient, but I’m not willing to put off action we have the ability to implement here in London.

“I’m determined that we continue to be doers, not delayers – not only to protect Londoners’ health right now, but for the sake of future generations to come.”

Khan indicated last week that London would need to "double down" on reducing car use.

Christina Calderato, director of transport strategy and policy at TfL, said: “Road based transport has for many years been a major contributor towards poor air quality and carbon emissions and we are determined to reverse this through a wide range of programmes across TfL. 

“The world-leading road user charging schemes we've delivered throughout the last 20 years have been really effective in addressing congestion and tackling air quality across London, but it is clear that as a city we need to go further.

“These new approaches will allow us to take further steps towards a net-zero city and we will ensure that Londoners and those who regularly visit London are involved as we progress this work in more detail.”

Tanya Sinclair, ChargePoint policy director - UK & Ireland, supports road pricing, but said said it has to be designed with drivers and fleet operators in mind.

She said: "Road pricing needs to be considered in the context of all the taxes, incentives and payments drivers make.

"It’s a balancing act - the Government needs to make sure that it isn’t giving out grant incentives with one hand and then taking them back through road pricing. The road pricing formula must encourage drivers to make cleaner vehicle and driving choices and no EV driver should pay more or lose out as a result of road pricing."

However, Sinclair clarified that this doesn’t mean EVs should pay nothing.

She said EVs use the road like any other vehicle and should "contribute appropriately", especially when it comes to reducing overall congestion.

Sinclair added: "With EV numbers on the rise, the era of ‘freebies for EVs’ in motor taxation is coming to its end. 

"As important as road pricing itself is, how it is communicated to drivers, especially those thinking about EVs for their next car is crucial.

"Government’s messaging needs to ensure that people feel supported and encouraged into buying clean vehicles. If this isn't kept in mind, consumers are less likely to make the change and the UK will miss its climate change targets.”

Addison Lee, the private hire and courier company, said it supports the Mayor’s ambition to make London a net zero city by 2030.

Liam Griffin, Addison Lee chief executive, said: "The current approach focusses on removing vehicles from London’s roads by increasing taxes on road use; however, to truly remove pollution from the capital’s air the main focus should be supporting drivers to switch to full electric vehicles as soon as possible.

"We are doing our bit by electrifying our entire fleet by 2023 - which will remove an estimated 20,000 tonnes of CO2 from London’s roads each year. We call on the Mayor to be clearer on whether his aim is to remove pollution or congestion.

"We urgently need an EV charging infrastructure revolution to ensure that fleets and private vehicle owners can shift to fully electric vehicles as soon as possible. We are encouraging the Mayor to start talking to fleet operators and professional drivers to fully understand the importance of a more comprehensive rollout of EV infrastructure.”

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