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The emissions surcharge is the proposal of Sadiq Khan, London’s newly elected mayor, who has wasted no time in setting out plans to improve the air quality in the city.
The mayor is keen to tackle pollution in the capital, which is already in breach of the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide.
Where London leads…?
There is speculation that other big cities could follow London’s lead as pressure mounts to clean up urban areas throughout the UK. More than 40 cities and towns are breaching safe limits for air pollution, according to recent data from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Port Talbot, Glasgow, London and Southampton were among those named and shamed in a report for their dangerously high levels of air pollution.
The European Commission also recently called for a congestion charge in all UK towns and cities, though the suggestion was roundly criticised at the time and is unlikely to top the list of priorities of a post-Brexit government.
The proposed emissions surcharge would apply to cars and vans that do not meet Euro 4 standards on pollution, which include most vehicles that were registered with the DVLA before January 2005.
So, if your car is more than 10 years old, it could prove costly to enter the capital.
Motorists would also have to pay the surcharge on top of the existing Congestion Charge of £11.50. In other words, about 9,000 cars a day would pay £21.50 to drive into central London.
The toxicity charge would operate in the same zone and at the same times as the congestion charge. It would also use the same payment methods and the same network of cameras to detect any potential cheats.
Some older vehicles would be totally or partially exempt from the proposed emissions surcharge, including emergency and NHS vehicles, residents and blue badge holders.
The surcharge would be in addition to any applicable charge to enter the Low Emission Zone, which covers most of Greater London and applies 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The LEZ was put in place to discourage heavy, mainly diesel vehicles such as lorries, trucks and vans, from entering the capital.
How low can you go?
The new mayor also plans to bring forward the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) from 2020 to 2019 as well as to extend its boundaries.
The ULEZ is currently set at £12.50 and will operate in the same zone as the Congestion Charge. But it will apply every day and at all times – and to all vehicles that do not meet the exhaust emission standards.
That’s not all. Khan has also given Transport for London the go-ahead to develop a diesel scrappage scheme for London, so owners of diesel cars could scrap their cars for cash.
The idea has previously been rejected by MPs as ineffective and expensive, but that doesn’t seem likely to deter the new mayor.