London congestion tax to become emissions tax?

Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Transport for London (TfL) has released its consultation document on the plans to hike up the London congestion tax to £25 per day for more polluting vehicles.
The controversial new scheme would also give exemptions to any vehicle emitting less than 121g/km of CO2, which critics say will actually increase traffic in central London. Only newer vehicles that meet Euro 4 emissions standards will qualify.

Residents inside the zone that drive vehicles emitting more than 225g/km would also no longer be eligible for the 90 per cent discount currently offered.

Cars from 121 to 225g/km would still pay the current £8 per day. Cars emitting no more than 120g/km would be exempt from the £8 daily charge from 4 February 2008 and the £25 charge for cars over 225g/km kicks in on 6 October next year.

The change also ends the automatic 100 per cent discount awarded to hybrid vehicles although anything 120g/km or below will now qualify no matter what fuel it uses. TfL will stop taking applications for hybrids next February, with existing vehicles losing their right to the discount in July 2009.

Double Cab Pick-Up

The Mayor is also targeting commercial vehicles, with the inclusion of pick-ups with two rows of seats in the scheme. Most pick-ups currently emit around 227g/km, which will mean £25 per day to enter the London zone, though that won't be implemented until July 2009.

Private hire vehicles would though be exempt from the £25 charge, instead paying £8 even if they use vehicles that come into the higher CO2 band.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone claims to be keeping an open mind on the proposals until the consultation period closes on 19 October.

Scheme Slammed

But the new scheme has been slammed by motor industry associations, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) questioning whether the charge is now an emissions or a congestion tax.

“Londoners will be sceptical about the motives for this considerable change to congestion charging and many will fear this is already a done deal,” said SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan. “However, we will push for a rethink on these totally disproportionate proposals. A family whose car emits one g/km more than their neighbour's could end up paying thousands of pounds more per year. That can't be right.”

The Retail Motor Industry Federation described the plans as a “poor way to cut down on overall traffic numbers,” and also slammed TfL for ignoring the environmental impact of buses and taxis. “Many of London's 22,000-strong black cab fleet is old and these emit far more harmful particulates than a comparable saloon car,” said RMI chairman Alec Murray.

“There are also 44,000 minicabs and 8,000 buses, most running on diesel, producing 200,000 tonnes of carbon per year. Will measures be taken to deal with the harmful environmental emissions produced by these vehicles?”

The consultation document follows on from revelations earlier this week that the wording of the draft Local Transport Bill could delegate powers to local authorities, allowing them to introduce emissions-based local road charging.


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