London’s air pollution-fighting flagship scheme Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), first launched in April 2019. No stranger to controversy, it has been touted as a “money-grabbing scheme” by some, and a means of targeting motorists going about their daily lives by others.
Despite living within the capital, residents can face the £12.50 daily charge by simply driving to their local supermarket. The cause? Their pre-2015 registered diesel or pre-2006 registered petrol car doesn’t meet the strict Euro 4 and Euro 6 emissions standards enforced throughout the city.
Two months after ULEZ’s recent expansion in October 2021 – now covering 18 times the original size up to but not including the North and South Circular roads – vehicle finance company Carvine conducted a survey to find out what Londoner’s really think about the scheme.
When we zoom in on the facts, an estimated £130m was spent to install the additional network of 750 number recognition cameras, in addition to the 650 already in place. All to detect non-compliant vehicles driving through the zone that have failed to pay the levy.
Despite numerous incentives, such as the now defunct Scrappage Scheme and the Plug-in Grant, lower-income households are still struggling to afford the same vehicles that are exempt from the emissions penalty. As a result, many poorer drivers are being priced off the road.
Then you have to question where the money made from both the Congestion Charge and ULEZ is being spent.
Within ULEZ’s first year of operation, City Hall raked in an extra £107m. Combining both C-Charge and ULEZ, the Greater London Assembly’s 2019-2020 financial year records a staggering £267m net profit.
According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s data, this figure was just £160m the year before the scheme launched.
Transport for London (TfL) claim that zero profit is made from either of the schemes. Instead, all the money is reinvested in improving the capital’s transport network, including buses, cycleways and the Tube. But, prior to ULEZ, all of the “improvement funds” came directly from the taxation of fares.
Alex Thomas, a marketing executive for Carvine remarked, “ULEZ is undeniably improving air quality across the capital. But when you think about how TfL is targeting motorists going about their daily lives who don’t typically have the luxury of affording an up-to-date, emission friendly car, you have to start asking questions.”
In London, the average second-hand vehicle costs £9,376. While that may be a drop in the ocean for some, poorer drivers may have to surrender their car for good as a result.