London mayor Sadiq Khan plans to introduce a pay-per-mile driving charge to cut pollution and congestion in the capital.
Mr Khan said that the move, which would charge drivers for every journey taken in their car, was necessary to meet the city’s climate agreement and also proposed a number of other measures to reduce car use.
These could include charging a fee for any vehicle registered outside of London that enters the city, expanding the ultra low emissions zone (ULEZ) or making more vehicles liable to pay the ULEZ charge.
According to research commissioned by the mayor’s office, London needs to reduce its car traffic by 27% to hit its net zero ambitions by 2030.
Mr Khan said he was “not willing to put off action” in achieving this and suggested a road pricing scheme that charges motorists for every mile they drive could be a long-term solution.
A report by City Hall said that a “simple and fair” road usage charge could replace the existing congestion charge and ultra low emissions zone (ULEZ) restrictions, which charge drivers a flat fee for entering the city.
The system could charge car drivers based on where, when and how far they travel but the report warns technology to achieve this is still “years away”, so Mr Khan is said to be considering other short-term changes to discourage car use.
These could include extending the £12.50-per-day ULEZ charge to cover all petrol and diesel cars, not just the older, more polluting models currently liable for the charge. It is estimated that this would affect millions of drivers as around 90% of cars registered within the ULEZ currently meet the emissions requirements and are exempt from the charge.
Other options being considered include expanding the ULEZ beyond its current boundaries at the North and South Circular Roads to cover the whole of London and introducing a “boundary charge” that would see drivers from outside London charged an additional fee for driving into the city.
Electric cars and other zero-emissions vehicles such as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles would be exempt from any such charges.
Mr Khan also floated the idea of a daily charge comparable to the price of a bus ticket as a means to “nudge” drivers to switch to public transport.
He said: “We have too often seen measures to tackle air pollution and the climate emergency delayed around the world because it’s viewed as being too hard or politically inconvenient, but I’m not willing to put off action we have the ability to implement here in London.
“I’m determined that we continue to be doers, not delayers – not only to protect Londoners’ health right now, but for the sake of future generations to come.”
He said Transport for London would launch a consultation into more detailed proposals with a view to any changes being introduced by 2024.
The last time road pricing was proposed - by the Labour government in 2007 - almost two million people signed an online petition against the idea and motoring groups have warned that the approach is not a simple solution.
AA president Edmund King said that encouraging the uptake of low-emissions vehicles was a better way to tackle pollution than “charging vehicles off the road”.
Nicholas Lyes, the RAC’s head of roads policy warned that a pay-per-mile scheme would “punish” drivers would can’t afford an EV and would “create massive financial challenges for individuals, families and businesses who run a car in London and even for those who visit the fringes of the capital.”
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