Lon­don’s new smog tax will hit half a mil­lion mo­torists


UP TO HALF A MIL­LION Lon­don mo­torists face hav­ing to change their seven-yearold or older cars be­cause of the ex­tra cost of the £12 daily Tox­i­c­ity Charge spread­ing to the sub­urbs in 2021.

Ob­tain­ing ex­act num­bers of cars af­fected is not easy, but Au­to­car’s es­ti­mates sug­gest the to­tal UK num­ber of older petrol and diesel cars could be as high as six mil­lion. Since Lon­don makes up 8.4% of the UK fleet, that’s equiv­a­lent to 500,000 cars.

Hard hit will be own­ers of rel­a­tively new EU5 diesels – mod­els most closely as­so­ci­ated with Diesel­gate – which to­day might be only three-and-a-half years old. By 2021, the last of the EU5S will be just seven years old, co­in­ci­den­tally also the av­er­age age of the Bri­tish car fleet.

Drivers us­ing a petrol car as their every­day mo­tor will also suf­fer if they own a pre-2005 model, the date EU4 started. To­day, those mod­els are 12 years old, still rel­a­tively new with lots of mileage left in them.

But en­thu­si­ast own­ers of ‘young clas­sics’ will also be badly hit. Com­plete gen­er­a­tions of 1980s, 1990s and 2000s en­thu­si­ast cars will be­come pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive to run as daily cars in Lon­don.

This group in­cludes mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions of the Porsche 911 and Boxster/cay­man, Mazda MX-5, VW Golf GTI, Ford Es­cort and Sierra Cos­worths, BMW M3, Z3 and Z4, Mercedes S-class, CLK, SLK and SL and many Volvo mod­els. Even the first 2001 BMW Mini will be en­snared, and the Land Rover De­fender, in­clud­ing the fi­nal run ‘Her­itage’ model, will be af­fected too.

“We are not out­law­ing or ban­ning any cars,” said Trans­port for Lon­don (TFL). “There is still the op­tion to use a car, but only af­ter pay­ing a £12 charge. Own­ers may just choose to use their ve­hi­cle less of­ten.”

In re­al­ity, an owner who uses a ‘young clas­sic’ ev­ery day faces an an­nual bill of £4380, while an overnight week­end trip away – say to Sil­ver­stone or Good­wood – will cost £24 be­cause the charge will have to be paid on the jour­ney out and then a sec­ond time on the re­turn on a dif­fer­ent day.

Ex­pe­ri­ence of the Con­ges­tion Charge (CC) sug­gests that £12 will be a sig­nif­i­cant con­straint. TFL has pre­vi­ously boasted of “pric­ing off” pri­vate cars from cen­tral Lon­don with the £11.50 CC. Mo­torists will also re­mem­ber that the CC started out at £5 in 2003 and has steadily more than dou­bled, first to £8 in 2005, £10 in 2008 and then £11.50 in 2014.

Al­though the CC was not in­tended to re­duce pol­lu­tants, it is worth not­ing that TFL re­ports no im­prove­ment in air qual­ity in cen­tral Lon­don.

The Tox­i­c­ity Charge is be­ing ex­tended across Lon­don to ad­dress NOX and par­tic­u­lates, said to breach EU stan­dards. The UK govern­ment has lost le­gal cases and now faces sig­nif­i­cant fines from the EU.

Lon­don’s ULEZ (Ul­tra Low Emis­sions Zone) is just the start for the UK, with three more cities ear­marked: Birm­ing­ham, Manch­ester and Ox­ford.

The wide­spread in­tro­duc­tion of Anpr-en­forced (au­to­matic num­ber­plate recog­ni­tion) anti-car zones in UK cities also gives or­gan­i­sa­tions like TFL and local au­thor­i­ties the power to ban any type of car as and when they wish.

In Lon­don, at least, own­ers of his­toric cars (cur­rently pre1978) will be ex­empted from the ULEZ, largely thanks to lob­by­ing by the Fed­er­a­tion of Bri­tish His­tor­i­cal Ve­hi­cle Clubs (FBHVC). “We have a strong ar­gu­ment that older, col­lec­tor cars pro­duce a tiny vol­ume of pol­lu­tants and TFL has ac­cepted that ar­gu­ment,” said FBHVC spokesman Ge­off Lan­caster.

His­toric cars are de­fined by the govern­ment as 40 years old – so, by 2021, cars dat­ing from 1981 will be ex­empt. Be­cause the cut-off ad­vances yearly, mid-1980s cars will as­sume ex­emp­tion by 2025, but that may be too late for many own­ers of ‘young clas­sics’.

Tox­i­c­ity Charge will be in ad­di­tion to the C-charge

Th­ese cars will all be li­able for the £12 daily-use charge in 2021

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