Transport trade associations have reacted with concern to proposals by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to bring forward the start date for London’s planned ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) from September 2020 to April 2019.
Under the proposals, diesel HGVs, buses and coaches which do not meet Euro 6 standards will be required to pay a £100 daily fee to drive within the ULEZ. The daily fee for vans would be £12.50.
The ULEZ will initially operate in the same area as the existing congestion charge zone, which covers central London, including the City and the West End. But under Mr Khan’s plans, the scheme would then be expanded across Greater London in 2020 for heavy diesel vehicles, and up to the North and South Circular roads for vans and cars in 2021.
Mr Khan said he would not “stand by and do nothing” in the face of “lethal” air in London, and called on central government to: “deliver a national vehicle scrappage fund, reform fiscal incentives like vehicle excise duty and pass a powerful new Clean Air Act to end the toxic smog in London once and for all.”
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said the news was troubling for small businesses and specialist hauliers serving the capital.
“We need to continue the improvement in London’s air quality which is happening anyway, but this regulation taking effect in 2019 will severely disadvantage small businesses working in the capital’s centre,” said Natalie Chapman, FTA head of policy for London and the South East.
“The impact will be especially hard for van users, as by 2019 there will only be two and a half years’ worth of compliant vehicles in the fleet – and no second-hand compliant vehicles available for purchase at all.”
She added that, while it was encouraging that the expansion of the ULEZ to Greater London would not be happening as early as had been previously suggested, “the expansions of the Zone will still increase the burden on business exponentially.
“We are calling for businesses based in the affected area to have access to a sunset clause, such as has been offered to private residents, allowing them greater time to comply with the change required without the need for unnecessary and potentially crippling additional charges for new vehicles.”
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) also expressed dismay, with chief executive Richard Burnett urging that Mr Khan’s “quest for clean air” should not be allowed to turn London “into a ghost town”.
“The thousands of restaurants, shops and tourist attractions that make London one of the world’s major tourist centres are massively reliant on an efficient delivery network,” he argued.
“That must not be jeopardised.
“Euro 6 engine technology is, in effect, a clean air plant – the air that emerges from the exhaust is actually cleaner than the air that goes in.”
He continued: “The majority of hauliers entering the capital on a regular basis are already using trucks that meet the Euro 6 standard – but many are not. They will be facing an additional £24K per year in fines.
“Many will be forced out of business while others will have no alternative but to pass the additional cost on to their customers. The knock-on effect will be an increase in prices for consumers, including the millions of tourists that come to London each year.”
The RHA added that it would be “pushing hard for the early implementation of a scrappage scheme” to incentivise those using pre-Euro 6 trucks to buy cleaner vehicles.
The ULEZ plans are now out to consultation until 25 June. Operators can read the full detail and respond here.