Announced in November last year, Labour's terrible ULEZ expansion came into force today - Tuesday 29th August.
I gave my views about this to BBC Radio Surrey earlier this morning. Hopefully it won't shock any of you to learn that my position hasn't changed!
It is hitting people with a huge cost of living charge at the worst possible time. Labour say they’re concerned about the cost of living, but the Labour Mayor’s actions say otherwise.
Khan said he wouldn’t go ahead with the expansion if there was overwhelming opposition. In the consultation 80% of people in the affected area, and 68% of people across London, said they didn’t want it. But he pressed ahead anyway.
A weak case
From the beginning, the case for ULEZ was weak. An Integrated Impact Assessment (IIA) commissioned by TfL as part of the consultation and carried out by Jacobs, it found that there would be no impact on carbon emissions or climate change, and only a very small effect on air quality or human health.
Across outer boroughs such as Croydon, it would affect just 1 or 2% of air pollution – the IIA found that about 98% of the air pollution would still be there with ULEZ. It is not “cleaning up the air” as the Mayor claims.
The report then goes on to suggest around 1% change in hospital admissions, asthma diagnoses and lung cancer. A margin-of-error change.
This very small change in air quality is bought at the severe cost hitting mostly those not well off people in outer London who drive older cars. The Mayor refuses to acknowledge this evidence.
What should someone do who can’t afford £12.50 daily charge, can’t afford a new car, but needs their car to get around? The Mayor has refused ever to engage with that question, but that’s exactly the dilemma he’s forcing many people into.
Much of the pro-ULEZ evidence comes from one team at Imperial, whose work the Mayor has funded to the tune of over £800,000 in the last two years. When other academics at Imperial found little or no benefits from ULEZ (in line with the Jacobs / IIA figures) the Mayor’s team tried to get their work suppressed. The emails showing this were released under FOI, as reported last week.
Another team, this time at Queen Mary University of London, looked into the Low Emission Zone and found no discernible health benefits. The Mayor’s team also tried to get them to change their conclusions. This was also reported last week, after the emails were released under FOI.
The evidence for air quality or human health benefits from expanding ULEZ suggests that any benefit is small, at most. But the financial impact on poorer Londoners with older cars is severe. On balance, the policy does not work. The fact that the Mayor’s team is so eager to tamper with the evidence suggests they know this, too, but refuse to listen.
Inner London and central London are completely different from outer London. It’s the wrong policy for this area.
One reason for the Mayor’s determination to press on with ULEZ despite the evidence of benefits evaporating is that it’s necessary for his pay-per-mile plans. This would mean all cars that enter any part of London would have to be fitted with a tracker to record their movement, so the Mayor can charge for each mile driven. Even on borough roads. The ULEZ cameras would be needed to detect vehicles not recording their movement with the tracker.
The Mayor denies he’s planning it, but TfL officials have said the opposite. Investigated by national press this week: Mail on Sunday and then The Times on Monday. Both found clear evidence that Khan is working on it, despite his denials.
All the way back to 2021 Lib Dem Caroline Pigeon then Chair of Transport Committee asked him about it. Off the top of his head, he said it wouldn’t be ready until 2025. A curious thing to know off the top of your head, when you’ve not been looking into it.
In 2022 TfL’s finance director told the Assembly that “significant numbers” of engineers were being recruited to develop the technology. The project, called Project 2030, has its own TfL sub-site to attract engineers keen to work on the future smart city. The only reason the Mayor has ever given for not proceeding is that the technology isn’t ready, which reads differently when you know he’s working flat-out to get the technology ready.
In February this year, the Assembly Transport Committee heard extensive evidence from a TfL Director on how they’re approaching it.
Be in no doubt - pay-per-mile is coming. The only way to stop it, is to vote Conservative in May 2024.