The launch of a crackdown on polluting cars was hit by technical problems on its first day, as business owners branded it a ‘stealth tax’.
Drivers of most diesels and older petrol vehicles must now pay a £12.50 daily fee in central London – on top of the £11.50 congestion charge.
But the website that allows owners to check whether they need to pay to enter the Ultra Low Emissions Zone kept freezing.
Drivers of most diesels and older petrol vehicles must now pay a £12.50 daily fee in central London – on top of the £11.50 congestion charge. But the website motorists need to check if they need to pay kept freezing
Transport for London, which will make £154million a year from the scheme, said the large numbers trying to log on meant that some were unable to access the website straight away
The area in orange shows the ULEZ zone currently in force, while the area in yellow is where it could be extended to
One frustrated motorist tweeted: ‘Nice to see that the vehicle checker for the new ULEZ is not working.’
Among other social media users to complain was Christine Elmer, who said: ‘Tried a few times but the checker appears not to be working.’
Transport for London, which will make £154million a year from the scheme, said the large numbers trying to log on meant that some were unable to access the website straight away.
But it insisted its systems were working well. Non-payers face a fine of £160 a day, reduced to £80 if paid within a fortnight.
Typically, only diesel cars under four years old that meet Euro 6 emissions standards can escape the fee.
The regime is less strict for petrol cars. They only have to comply with Euro 4 standards, which cover vehicles under 13 years old.
A poll published by Nissan yesterday found that three quarters of motorists were unaware of their emissions rating and whether they would be affected by the new charge.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan says the zone is needed to tackle a ‘public health emergency’. He has targeted diesel vehicles because they produce more nitrogen oxides and particulates than petrol equivalents.
The ultra low emission zone comes into force for drivers in London with vehicles that release high emissions. Pictured: One of the signs on April 8
Angry drivers also took to Twitter to claim the new charge, introduced by Mayor Sadiq Khan, was a ‘stealth tax’
Q&A on London’s new ultra-low emission zone
The ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) has been introduced in London. Here are some of the key questions around the scheme:
What is it? The Ulez is a way of charging vehicles which emit the most nitrogen oxide for entering parts of London.
When does it apply? The daily charge runs from midnight to midnight every day.
Where is it happening? The scheme is initially within the same area as the congestion charging zone, before being expanded to within the North and South Circular roads from October 2021.
What vehicles are included? All vehicles are affected apart from black taxis.
How much does it cost to enter the zone with an older vehicle? It costs £12.50 for most vehicle types, including cars, motorcycles and vans. Heavier vehicles such as lorries, buses and coaches are liable for a £100 charge.
How can I avoid the charge? To be exempt from the Ulez charge, petrol cars, vans and minibuses must meet the Euro 4 emissions standard and diesels must meet Euro 6. That means the oldest cars that can be driven in central London without paying are roughly a four-year-old diesel model or a 13-year-old petrol model.
What happens if I don’t pay? If you fail to pay the charge, car drivers face a £160 Penalty Charge Notice (reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days). Lorry drivers will be handed a much larger fine of £1,000 (reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days).
What if I don’t know my vehicle’s emissions standard? Drivers can check whether their vehicle is liable for a charge by entering its registration on the Transport for London website.
Why was Ulez introduced? London mayor Sadiq Khan says the scheme will improve the capital’s air quality, which he says is responsible for thousands of premature deaths and other serious conditions.
Has there been any opposition to the scheme? Conservatives on the London Assembly claim Mr Khan’s decision to introduce the scheme earlier than planned could catch out some motorists – particularly those from the poorest households – who have not already upgraded their vehicle to a newer model. They also warn that expanding the zone to the whole of inner London will not effectively tackle pollution and will affect people and businesses in areas with low pollution.
A new study by King’s College London and Imperial College London found that poor air quality leads to about 1,000 hospital admissions for asthma and serious lung conditions in the capital every year.
TfL said it expects to generate £213million in the first year from the ULEZ charge, with a surplus of £154million once costs are stripped out. It forecasts up to 60,000 vehicles a day will be affected initially – a number that will tail off over time.
Lorries, buses and coaches incur a £100 daily fee, on top of the congestion charge.
The zone will be extended to inner London – inside the North and South Circular roads – from October 2021. Charges apply 24 hours a day, all year. Any surplus will be reinvested in the network.
Critics of the scheme have warned that people on low incomes might not be able to upgrade to a less-polluting car. Many owners bought diesels because of tax breaks given out when they were seen as a better choice for the environment.
Yesterday Lord Brocket warned the vehicle checker was inaccurate. He said the website decided his wife Harriet’s scooter did not meet the new standards despite the manufacturer Honda confirming it did.
The 67-year-old peer said: ‘I’m behind anything that reduces pollution. But if you are going to impose extra taxes on people, then get it right.’
Paul Cowperthwaite of TfL said: ‘We encourage vehicle owners to contact us with evidence of emissions standards if they believe they are compliant to ensure they don’t receive any unnecessary charges.’
Diesel cars must be less than roughly four years old to avoid the charge, while petrol cars must be less than about 13 years old
What are towns and cities outside London doing to tackle emissions?
A ‘patchwork approach’ to pollution charging will be ‘bewildering’ for drivers, a motoring research charity has warned.
Analysis by the RAC Foundation found that local authorities across Britain are planning to introduce schemes with a variety of rules, following the launch of the ultra-low emission zone in London.
The measures will mean certain vehicles will be liable for a charge in some towns and cities but not others. Here are some of the plans to improve air quality in Britain, based on analysis by the charity:
Bath: Plan for higher emission vehicles except cars to be charged to drive in the city centre from late 2020. Non-compliant buses, coaches and lorries will be charged £100 a day, while taxis, minicabs, vans and minibuses will pay £9.
Birmingham: A proposed clean air zone is expected to come into operation in January 2020. Older buses, coaches and lorries will be charged £50 per day, while cars, taxis, minicabs, vans and minibuses will be charged £8.
Glasgow: A low emission zone restricting the movement of older buses is already in place. From January 2023 restrictions will extend to older coaches, lorries, taxis, minicabs, vans, minibuses, cars and motorcycles.
Greater Manchester: Proposal that from 2021 older taxis, minicabs, vans and minibuses will pay £7.50 per day, while buses, coaches and lorries will pay £100.
Leeds: A 24/7 clean air zone has been approved for January 2020. This will see the most polluting taxis, minicabs and vans facing a £12.50 daily fee, while buses, coaches and lorries will pay £50.
Sheffield: A low emission zone has been proposed for older taxis, minicabs, vans and minibuses, but no start date, hours of operation or daily charge has been confirmed.
Elsewhere: There are restrictions on older buses in Oxford, while Brighton and York will introduce similar schemes in 2020. Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dundee have all committed to having low emission zones by 2021.
Other places including Coventry, Derby, Leicester, Liverpool and Tyneside are at various stages of deciding or implementing measures to improve air quality.