TfL's income increased by £100m from the expansion of London's Ulez
Image credit: Foto 144543166 © Lorna Jane | Dreamstime.com
The move to make the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) 18 times larger generated an estimated £93.6m of additional revenue from drivers, according to official figures.
One year after Transport for London (TfL) expanded the area included in the Ulez, official figures have shown the economic impact of the decision.
The analysis by the RAC found that between the start of November 2021 and the end of June 2022, an average of 1.9 million journeys were made into the zone every month, resulting in £112.5m of revenue from those required to pay.
That is compared with revenue of less than £19m between February and September 2021, before the Ulez was expanded, thereby resulting in a £93.6m increase.
The Ulez was first launched in April 2019, requiring all vehicles passing through the city centre to meet strict emissions standards or pay a fee. Within months, the number of more polluting vehicles fell by a third, as people were pushed to walk, cycle or use public transport.
Ulez initially only covered the same area of central London as the congestion charge. However, since October 2021, the Ulez included all areas within the North and South Circular roads as part of efforts to boost air quality.
Under the rules regulating Ulez, drivers of most vehicles which do not comply with minimum emissions standards are charged a daily fee of £12.50 for entering the Ulez. Failing to pay can result in a penalty charge notice of £160, reduced to £80 for early payment.
“There has been no single policy that’s improved the air as much as the Ulez," the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, told the PA News Agency. “In central London and inner London, we’ve managed to reduce toxic air by almost a half.
“I think clean air is a human right. Why can’t those in outer London who suffer the worst air pollution, have the worst numbers of premature deaths, also benefit from clean air?”
Given the measure's success, and the UK's commitment to achieving net zero by 2050, Khan has proposed for the zone to be expanded to cover the whole of London from August 2023. The final decision on the subject is expected to be announced by the end of the year.
The proposal has drawn some criticism regarding the economic impact it will have on drivers during a cost-of-living crisis.
“While we accept that action is needed to reduce toxic emissions from vehicles, the cost-of-living crisis is hurting drivers in the pocket and there is a risk that further enlarging the zone will be hugely costly for those with older vehicles who can least afford to change them for something newer," said RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes.
“As it is, RAC research suggests drivers are holding on to their vehicles for longer, so there is a real risk that more people with non-compliant vehicles will be forced to pay a charge they can ill afford to.
“We would encourage the mayor to take a pragmatic approach and redouble his efforts to support lower-income families and businesses with non-compliant vehicles with a targeted scrappage scheme ahead of any expansion plans.”
Alex Williams, TfL’s chief customer and strategy officer, stated that TfL's chief concern was not the money, but the quality of air within the city, and stated that the money raised from Ulez will be reinvested in improving walking, cycling and public transport provisions.
“The Ulez is not about making money, but about improving the health and wellbeing of millions of Londoners," Williams said. “We would rather no one needed to pay the charge, and we expect income to fall over time as even more people switch to more sustainable alternatives."
In 2019, London was among the 35 cities that signed the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration, which declares that clean air is a “human right” and could encourage tree planting while penalising cars drivers, among other initiatives.
That same year, nine million people died because of air pollution, surpassing the annual global tolls for war, malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, drugs and alcohol, according to a report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health. Despite the high numbers, UK government initiatives to cut air pollution have “not moved as fast as expected”, the National Audit Office (NAO) said in June 2022.
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