The Mayor of London has envisaged the introduction of road user charging across the capital.

At present, Transport for London (TfL) is considering the expansion of the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ). This would expand to include the whole of Greater London. Higher charges are also being considered for all but the cleanest vehicles.

However, the Mayor – Sadiq Khan – says that ‘bold action’ is required now to improve air quality and cut congestion. He has charged TfL to also investigate the merits of road user charging technology.

Time to clean up

It comes as a new report commissioned by the Mayor of London, sets out the action required to move London towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.

“Nearly half of Londoners don’t own a car,” states the Mayor. “They are disproportionally feeling the damaging consequences polluting vehicles are causing”.

He continues that tackling air pollution previously has been undermined by motorists concerns and election voting. “Viewed as being too hard or politically inconvenient” says Khan, but he is no longer “willing to put off action”.

Paying the price

The new report states that reducing car use in the capital will need a new kind of road user charging system. To hit the necessary targets, this will be need to be implemented by the end of the decade at the latest.

Such a system, says the Mayor, could abolish all existing road user charges. These include the congestion charge and ULEZ , replacing them with a pay per mile scheme. Different rates would be charged depending on how polluting vehicles are, the level of congestion in the area and access to public transport.

Subject to consultation, it is likely there would be exemptions and discounts. These would include those on low incomes,   disabilities, as well as consideration for charities and small businesses.

However, recognising that the technology to implement such a scheme will take time, Khan says that action must be taken now.

The potential approaches under consideration are:

  • Extending the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to cover the whole of Greater London.
  • Modifying the ULEZ to make it even more impactful, adding a small clean air charge for all but the cleanest vehicles.
  • Introducing a clean air charge: a low-level daily charge across all of Greater London for all but the cleanest vehicles.
  • Introducing a Greater London boundary charge, which would charge a small fee to non-London registered vehicles entering Greater London. This would be a response to the increase in cars from outside London travelling into the city in recent years.

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.

The ULEZ, which was expanded in the autumn, is now 18 times larger than the original central London ULEZ.

Governing intentions

The government is expected to assess the merits of a national road pricing scheme. It comes as a potential £40 billion shortfall from road taxes, including fuel duty, is estimated through the take up of EVs.

Arguing the environmental benefits of road pricing, Khan says he wants greater support to reduce carbon emissions in London. It will also raise revenue for TfL, which recently had emergency funding from the Government.

Tanya Sinclair, policy director for the UK and Ireland at ChargePoint, said: “We support road pricing, so long as it is designed with drivers and fleet operators in mind.

“Road pricing needs to be considered in the context of all the taxes, incentives and payments drivers make. It’s a balancing act – the UK Government needs to make sure that it isn’t giving out grant incentives with one hand and then taking them back through road pricing.

“The road pricing formula must encourage drivers to make cleaner vehicle and driving choices and no EV driver should pay more or lose out as a result of road pricing. However, this doesn’t mean EVs should pay nothing. They use the road like any other vehicle and should contribute appropriately, especially when it comes to reducing overall congestion.”

With the capital actively considering the move, the rest of the country has been put on notice.