Capital punishment for diesel drivers?

Air pollution is a massive problem for the UK. So big a problem has it become that earlier this year the European Commission launched legal proceedings against the government for missing its air pollution targets.
In a bid to tackle the problem, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, is planning to make central London an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). That would mean that diesel drivers who venture into the capital could find themselves having to stump up an extra fee on top of the congestion charge.

2020 vision

Although there are calls for the changes to come into force sooner, the plan is to implement the ULEZ by 2020. And where London leads, other major towns and cities across the UK could well follow. This would create districts in which all but the cleanest of engines would be penalised. Diesel vehicles that didn’t meet the required Euro 6 standard – which comes into effect from January 2015 – would have to pay the fee. Bad news if you drive a diesel, and a real kick in the particulates if you actually bought a diesel on the back of it being portrayed as the more eco-friendly option. Although diesels do produce fewer CO2 emissions than petrol engines, the higher levels of particulates they spew out, particularly nitrogen oxide, make them a greater health risk. This was something the Labour government failed to acknowledge when it overhauled vehicle excise duty (VED) to offer cheaper road tax on diesels, meaning people were horribly misinformed and bought into the myth of the eco-friendly diesel engine.

Has Boris got your back?

It will be of little solace to diesel owners that Boris Johnson is sympathetic to their plight. The Mayor of London said: “I feel sorry for them [diesel drivers]. It is a massive failure of government policy. Millions of people were told that they were doing a decent thing by buying a diesel vehicle. “You have got to be reasonable and fair to people who are buying vehicles now. And they will be very aggrieved if they are told they are going to face an extra charge to go through the centre of London. And you also need to take account of where the industry is.”

Pain in the gas

Unsurprisingly, the announcement that diesel drivers will sooner or later have to pay to drive in certain areas has not gone down well with motorists. A survey of more than 2,000 people conducted by car supermarket, Motorpoint, found three-quarters (75%) of motorists wouldn’t be prepared to pay more in taxes to help local authorities meet European clean air targets. Kevin Pratt, insurance expert at MoneySuperMarket said: “Motoring costs are high enough as it is, so drivers won’t welcome any additional expenses, particularly if they have bought a diesel car in the past due to its supposed eco-friendliness. “There are plenty of ways to cut the cost of motoring though, not least shopping around for your car insurance and adjusting your driving style to save on fuel, and the changes in legislation won’t take effect for a number of years yet so there is plenty of time to consider changing your vehicle.” What do you make of the London ULEZ proposals? A good idea for cleaner air or just another stealth tax? Let us know...

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