London to introduce £10 vehicle pollution charge

Exhaust fumes during heavy traffic in central London, Britain, 25 January 2017. Reports suggest London pollution is reaching dangerous levels, with London's pollution levels worse than that of Beijing. [EPA/ANDY RAIN]

Older, more polluting cars will have to pay a £10 charge (€12) to drive in central London from 23 October, the city’s mayor has said.

Confirming he would press ahead with the fee, known as the T-charge, Sadiq Khan said: “It’s staggering that we live in a city where the air is so toxic that many of our children are growing up with lung problems. If we don’t make drastic changes now we won’t be protecting the health of our families in the future.

“That is why today, on the 14th anniversary of the start of the congestion charge, I’ve confirmed we are pressing ahead with the toughest emission standard of any major city, coming to our streets from 23 October.”

The announcement came after fresh warnings this week about the poor quality of London’s air.

The mayor spoke as he launched an online vehicle checker on the Transport for London website so drivers can check whether their vehicle will be affected by the T-charge, whose introduction coincides with the start of the autumn half-term.

The levy is expected to affect up to 10,000 of the oldest, most polluting vehicles every week day, as it will apply to motorists who own vehicles that do not meet Euro 4 standards – typically those diesel and petrol vehicles registered before 2006.

It will operate on top of, and during the same times, as the congestion charge, meaning it will cost £21.50 a day to drive a pre-Euro 4 vehicle in centre London between 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday.

Twin EU road toll proposals target pollution and cross-border trucking

EU transport chief Violeta Bulc is expected to announce an overhaul of how countries charge road tolls this May – a controversial issue that has provoked bitter political fights lately and is likely to spark backlash from member states, the shipping industry and truck drivers.

London joins a growing number of cities around the world taking action against rising air pollution. In Paris, older more polluting vehicles are now banned between 8am-8pm on weekdays.

Khan launched a consultation on the T-charge proposals last July at Great Ormond Street hospital for children, whose chief executive, Dr Peter Steer, said at the time: “The mayor’s drive to clean up the capital’s air is fantastic news for our patients and staff. Children living in highly polluted areas are four times more likely to have reduced lung function in adulthood, yet improving air quality has been shown to halt and reverse this effect.”

Air pollution is believed to cause almost 40,000 premature deaths every year in the UK and was in April labelled a public health emergency by a cross-party committee of MPs. The government is facing a new legal challenge over the adequacy of its plans to tackle the issue, having already lost a previous case in 2015.

German parliament gives controversial road toll green light

Germany’s Bundestag agreed on Friday (24 March) to introduce a road toll for cars registered abroad with prices linked to environmental criteria.

Last year Khan published research that showed numerous schools in the capital were in areas that exceeded safe legal pollution levels. His plan to cut air pollution includes extending the ultra-low emission zone beyond central London to the North and South Circular roads from 2019. Drivers would not pay both the ULEZ and the new £10 charge and the latter will not apply to taxis.

Other suggestions for tackling the problem include a national diesel scrappage scheme, which the government would have to implement. Paying owners to scrap their their cars is supported by some MPs but other groups argue the money would be better spent supporting public transport and cycling and walking.