Following the recent expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), drivers in London could face a new charge by 2024 based on road usage.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has indicated that London needs to "double down" on reducing car use to meet net zero by 2030. He said the capital will need to see a “significant shift” away from petrol and diesel vehicle use, which will need to be met with an increase in walking, cycling, greater public transport use, and cleaner emission vehicles. Just two per cent of vehicles on the roads in London are currently electric.
A new 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.
Such a system could abolish all existing road user charges – such as the Congestion Charge and ULEZ - and replace them with a 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.
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.”
Transport for London (TfL) says it will launch a public consultation on the short-term options. Subject to consultation and feasibility, the chosen scheme would be implemented by May 2024.
Tanya Sinclair, ChargePoint policy director - UK & Ireland, supports road pricing, but said it must 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.
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.”
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 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.”
The report put forward several proposals. One is to consider 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.