Featured in the Future Transport London Newsletter May 2023
Sadiq Khan’s plan to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone to the edge of Greater London on 29th August is running into trouble with eleven outer London boroughs including Labour controlled Barking and Dagenham. Interestingly, these boroughs seem to be the ones which are doing least to help their residents switch to greener transport.
Opposition is also rising from authorities beyond the Greater London boundary, including Surrey. Complaints centre upon the fact that their residents will have to pay the charge although they have no right to vote on it. They are also saying that more time is needed and that the date of implementation should be put back. Amongst other complainants is Unite the Union which has branded the expansion nothing less than ‘anti-worker’. Five authorities – Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon and Surrey County Council – are mounting a legal challenge to the expansion which will be heard in the High Court later this year.
It could be that the motivating factor is the vociferous opposition by drivers who resent any restriction on their right to drive however they like but their opposition centres chiefly around the level of compensation available to people who find their vehicle is not compatible with the new restrictions. According to TfL 90 per cent of London registered vehicles are now compatible.
The Mayor has put £110 million into the compensation pot. Anyone who runs a non-compliant vehicle and is eligible for one or more of a long list of benefits is entitled to £2000 towards a new car or van or a lesser amount if compensation is partly in the form of an annual bus and tram pass. There are lesser amounts for motor cycles and up to £5000 for scrapping a wheelchair accessible vehicle. The Mayor and TfL are also announcing a range of ULEZ support offers from businesses for all Londoners, including additional exclusive offers for successful applicants of the scrappage scheme. This will enable Londoners to benefit from discounts and promotions on subscriptions, rentals and purchases of bicycles, e-bikes, cargo bikes, cars and vans. Boroughs claim that this pot is not large enough and will run out before everyone is compensated.
So far 5,000 applications to the ULEZ scrappage fund have been approved, mostly to van drivers.
The Liberal Democrat group on the Greater London Assembly proposed a motion to double the compensation pot by another £100 million and also to include all Blue Badge holders irrespective of their benefit status. Under the scheme Blue Badge holders of certain benefits have a grace period up to October 2027 to comply. The motion was carried unanimously because both Labour and the Conservatives abstained. The resolution is not binding on the Mayor who might choose to disregard it. Sadiq Khan has now asked the Prime Minister for the funds to double the compensation package.
Success of the ULEZ expansion will depend partly on the expansion of bus services in outer London and in furtherance of this aim the Mayor has launched ‘Superloop’ which will be a network of express buses linking outer London suburbs. The present X26 route linking Heathrow with Croydon will be incorporated as will X140 linking Heathrow with Harrow. New routes will link Harrow with North Finchley (X183, North Finchley with Walthamstow (X34) and Walthamstow with the Royal Docks (X123). South of the Thames, Croydon will link with Bromley (X119) and Bromley with Bexleyheath (X269). (An extension of Tramlink from Beckenham to Bromley might do more than a bus would.) Also included in the Superloop concept will be the existing express routes, X68 from Russell Square to Croydon, 607 from White City to Uxbridge and, in due course, the proposed X239 to run through Silvertown Tunnel linking Canary Wharf and Grove Park. Buses will feature Superloop branding to help them stand out from others. Sadiq Khan has said that it will be 40 per cent ready by this summer.
London TravelWatch commented: ‘These express bus routes will hopefully make a difference for Londoners who live in outer boroughs. Helping people get around for work, healthcare appointments, schools and shopping trips. We’ve been calling for more orbital bus routes for some time as we know that people value being able to travel across boroughs where they can connect to local transport interchanges.
‘We need these extra services to be in place as soon as possible - to coincide with any ULEZ expansion later this year. ‘Superloop’ will only truly be transformational if buses are given priority on the road. After all, a ‘limited stop’ express bus stuck in traffic is still just a bus stuck in traffic!’
Overall there will be more than a million extra kilometres of bus services in outer
London paid for by an operating surplus which TfL is set to achieve in 2023/24.