The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) have long been suspicious about the reasons given for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London. The proposed measures, particularly the extension to within the North/South Circular, seemed disproportionate to the likely benefits from reductions in air pollution. This is particularly so, bearing in mind that emissions from vehicles are rapidly falling, as newer vehicles replace older ones. In April 2017 the ABD asked for information on the financial budgets for the ULEZ – the likely costs and income the Mayor would get. The request was refused and they eventually had to appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). However, they have now received the requested data following a judgement in their favour. These are the figures received from Transport for London (TfL): Implementation costs: £38.4 million.
Operating income and costs:
Impact of introduction of ULEZ on income (£m) over 5 years 2017/18 to 2021/22 inclusive. (+ve is net increase in income): £55.3 million.
Impact of introduction of ULEZ on costs (£m) over 5 years 2017/18 to 2021/22 inclusive. (-ve is net increase in costs): -£12.7 million.
But these figures make absolutely no sense as against the figures ABD have calculated for operating income based on data provided in the ULEZ consultation documents. For example the ABD estimate income over five years as being £313.6 million rather than £55.3 million. In reality TfL may be making a profit over five years of £300.9 million for a capital investment of £38.4 million. At a stroke Sadiq Khan will solve his budget problems with the ULEZ implemented. The Mayor has great financial difficulties, as is apparent from his recently published budget for the next few years, where he begs for more financial support from central Government. But he surely will not need their support with this scheme in place, even though he does not have the funds to do it without more borrowing. Just like the central London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax), where charges were later raised (more than doubled), thus making it a very profitable for TfL, once the infrastructure, such as cameras are in place for the ULEZ, charges can then be raised. The scheme can also be extended way past when traffic air pollution ceases to be a problem, thus potentially introducing more general road pricing. Will the health benefits outweigh the costs of the scheme to Londoners? The answer is no because they are only valued at £7.1 million over 5 years. This duplicity in justifying the ULEZ on health grounds, which few are likely to oppose, when the real reason may be to fund his empire, is surely typical of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s approach to politics and democracy. Who does not want cleaner air? But there are lots of ways to improve air quality from transport and other sources, without imposing such enormous costs on road users. To remind readers, the ULEZ charge for non-compliant cars will be £12.50 (taxis currently exempt), imposed 24/7, and enormous numbers of people will need to buy new cars to avoid this cost. Readers should make sure they oppose the extension of the ULEZ by responding to this public consultation before the 28th February.