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ULEZ: ‘Stealth tax’ to ‘it’s a win win’ - Londoners react to Ultra Low Emission Zone expansion

·4 min read
ULEZ: ‘Stealth tax’ to ‘it’s a win win’ - Londoners react to Ultra Low Emission Zone expansion

Londoners have given their say on the expansion of the ULEZ which came into force on Monday across the capital.

Drivers of vehicles which do not comply with minimum emissions standards are being charged £12.50 to drive in the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez), which became 18 times larger on Monday.

It now includes all areas within the North and South Circular roads in an attempt to boost air quality.

Motorists gave a mixed reaction to the changes with some complaining about it hitting the poorest Londoners forced to scrap their older vehicles while others hoped it would reduce pollution and called for it to be extended to the M25.

Wayne Lewis, 56, from Tottenham scallled it a “a stealth way” of supporting Transport for London’s finances.

“The future is electrified vehicles but this is just penalising combustion engine car drivers.

“The central government should be investing in making it easier to own electric cars rather than punishing drivers.

“But now they are just penalising and that always falls on people of lower incomes. They are in the greatest need and live in the most polluted areas but have no way of affording a new electric car.

“They have no choice but to leave their cars to rust.”

Research scientist Dan McGill, 28, said his commute into London from Reading had been reduced by half an hour already on Monday morning.

He said: “I had to switch from a diesel car which I was borrowing to a petrol car but this was all done with plenty of advanced knowledge.

“The ULEZ is a win-win from my perspective. Everyone appreciates better air quality and fewer road accidents hopefully and I get to work and emergency services get to scenes slightly faster.

“Most people should be happy to use public transport, if they don’t already, and the expansion announcement was in June 2018 and well-advertised from the beginning of this year.

“I’d say the biggest losers of the expansion are people who need to switch to ULEZ-compliant cars, who are limited in time or money.

“It will be worse for self-employed van drivers and underprivileged elderly or disabled people who can’t afford to change cars.”

Lawyer Deven Vyas, 49, from London Bridge said: “Surely it’s simply another vehicle tax for drivers. A bit like the congestion charge which hasn’t reduced congestion but has become a revenue making charge.

“Will this reduce emissions or raise much needed extra revenue post covid for the Mayor?”

Michael Lloyd, managing director of LTC Scaffolding, said his firm has invested £300,000 to upgrade some of its fleet to meet Ulez standards, but still expects to rack up around £2,500 a week in charges for its non-compliant vehicles.

He said that “most small businesses” cannot afford that expense.

The Ulez expansion is “a good idea” but it should have been postponed for at least six months,” according to Mr Lloyd.

“The only thing is the timing,” he said. “Businesses are on their knees because of the pandemic, and this is just another kick in the teeth.”

It came as just 35 per cent of motorists living in and around London knew how to check if their vehicle will be charged, according to a study by car sales website Motorway.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, told the Today programme: “With the expanded scheme we will reduce the amount of carbon being emitted by more than 100 tonnes - that’s about 60,000 vehicles being taken off the roads.”

Mr Khan added: “For me, this is an issue of social justice. Who do we think suffers the worst consequences of toxic air?

“It is the poorest Londoners least likely to own a car. Six out of ten in the expanded area don’t even own a car.

“The area we are going to be covering, the population of almost four million, is twice the size of Paris, eight times the size of Manchester. Doing nothing is not an option.”

Drivers who fail to pay face being handed a Penalty Charge Notice of £160, reduced to £80 if paid within a fortnight.

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