Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly.
As most will know, air quality is a very important and well publicised issue in London. A short time after his election, Sadiq Khan, the current Mayor, outlined new proposals to address London’s poor air quality. These measures include both the implementation of the Emissions Surcharge (also known as the T-Charge) and the extension of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the North and South Circulars, bisecting 15 London boroughs in the process.
The T-charge will be a daily charge of £10 for vehicles older than ten years. On this, what Sadiq Khan is failing to tell Londoners is that, based upon Transport for London’s own figures, the new charge will cost Londoners £23 million a year in total, despite having only a “negligible” impact on pollution. TfL’s assessment concludes the £10 daily charge for older vehicles will reduce just 1-3% of NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions per year. The same assessment also concludes the anticipated reduction in air pollution will be ‘low’ and produce “no significant result”.
Air quality is especially important for those with respiratory issues, and more needs to be done to tackle our bad air, but evidentially ineffective policies should never be adopted, especially if they come at great cost to ordinary commuters and businesses. Indeed, small businesses, and in fact employment as a whole, will be hard hit by the T-Charge, with businesses facing charges of £2,600 a year or having to fork out between £3,000 and £7,000 to renew the vehicles in their fleet. TfL estimates that at least 9,000 vehicles will be hit by the T-Charge every day.
Alongside the T-Charge, Sadiq Khan’s extension of the ULEZ is not much better. Not only will it fail to fully tackle pollution hotspots, it will penalise drivers and businesses in non-polluting areas. In contrast to this blunt approach, a targeted approach in central London saw emissions in Oxford Street fall by a third in just 12 months.
Boris Johnson’ original ULEZ, which focused purely on central London, is predicted to cut harmful emissions by 51 per cent. Whereas Sadiq Khan’s massively expanded zone will only reduce emission by a further 10 per cent: this is a poor return for a costly initiative.
A report by my colleague, Gareth Bacon, estimates that the cost of this wasteful extension stands at £780m, or £220 for every household in London. On top of this, small businesses will be hard hit by the daily charges for driving inside the North and South Circular – which TfL figures predict could total £100 million per annum. This same report suggested that this money would be better used on purchasing 2,600 hybrid buses, the greatest source of road pollution, which would mean a third of the bus fleet was either zero or low emission, in turn reducing emissions by a similar amount to Sadiq Khan’s proposals.
Also, as the ULEZ extension will split 15 boroughs in half, in certain parts of London it could mean a charge of £12.50 a day to simply drop your child off at school or drive to the shops.
Tackling air pollution is one of the greatest priorities for London, but policies that seek to combat this must be both affordable and effective. Unfortunately, Sadiq Khan’s current policies will be costly to Londoners for little effect. Londoners clearly deserve better.