Featured in the FTL Newsletter, May 2022
After intense lobbying by many environmental groups, including Future Transport London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has instructed TfL to explore the possibility of introducing a road pricing scheme that would charge by distance travelled, time and location, to be introduced in the Mayor’s manifesto for 2024. There could be exemptions and discounts for those on low incomes and with disabilities and also some support for charities and small businesses. Newly appointed Deputy Commissioner for Transport, Seb Dance, said the ‘car revolution’ is ‘not the future of what the city can be. It’s almost socially unacceptable to say we don’t recycle. The same thing is needed to the way we travel’.
Element Energy, in a report commissioned by Khan, said that there would need to be a 27 per cent cut in car journeys in London to achieve net zero by 2030.
There are doubts, however, whether the necessary technology could be ready in time for 2024 and other options are being considered and it is now decided to extend the £12.50 ULEZ charge to the whole of Greater London in 2023.
In all cases electric vehicles would be exempt from charges which means the measure, whilst dealing with air quality, would not deal with other issues arising from traffic such as road safety and congestion. Exempting electric vehicles from charges is going to have another effect in years to come as government finds its tax take from vehicles is severely diminished. The longer electric vehicle owners are allowed to drive for nothing the more difficult it will be to begin charging them. Road user charging would overcome this hurdle if it applied to all vehicles.
The general belief is that the idea that you should pay by the mile for driving in London is unpopular and that the Mayor would suffer a catastrophic drop in his popularity if he were to introduce it.
A survey for Centre for London in May suggested that this is not necessarily the case. Respondents were asked their views on four different solutions to help solve TfL’s funding crisis. The responses were: increasing charges to drive in parts of London (27 per cent), cutting services (15 per cent), increasing fares (12 per cent), a nationwide tax increase (11 per cent), an increase in taxes in London (9 per cent.
When asked specifically whether they would support the introduction of pay-per-mile road user charging as an alternative to the existing road charges in the city (ULEZ, and the Congestion Charge), 42 per cent said they would while 26 per cent said they would not.
Labour and Conservative voters were equally as likely to support the introduction of road user charging (44 per cent were in favour in both groups). Of particular significance is that car owners were also as likely to support the introduction of road user charging as people who don’t own a car (43 per cent and 41 per cent respectively), but car owners were also more likely to oppose (30 per cent, compared to 20 per cent among people who don’t own a car).