With a clear majority, on the 17th of November, the London Assembly backed the Mayor’s revision to his Transport Strategy opening up the option to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to cover all of London and later introduce ‘Smart & Fair Road User Charging’ (SFRUC). The vote was along party lines, with Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat members voting for the revision, Conservative members against.
In a boisterous exchange of views at the Assembly, the Mayor made clear to Conservative opponents of the revision that the change to his Transport Strategy was a vote on the policy foundation not one on the expansion of ULEZ itself:
“New evidence on the triple challenges of toxic air pollution, climate change and traffic congestion mean that we have to act now to reduce emissions and car use in London. The Transport Strategy has to be updated that these triple challenges are addressed.”
The Mayor who also described emissions and pollution as a “killer”, said that he had not yet taken a decision on the expansion of ULEZ (it was clear last night numerous options were still on the table including: not doing it, delay, scrappage scheme, exemptions etc.) and further made it clear that SFRUC would also be subject to consultation if or when it came forward.
In our Climate Safe Streets report LCC argued that SFRUC was essential to cut emissions, improve people’s health and reduce congestion. We therefore welcome the Assembly’s backing for a policy foundation that will enable smart and fair road user charging to become a London-wide programme. Our view is that given the Mayor’s ambition to make London net zero by 2030 he must implement a pilot road charging scheme in the very near future.
While Conservative opponents of the Mayor’s revision proposal declared their strong opposition to an expanded ULEZ they did not express similar views on SFRUC which has also been signalled as a likely future step by the Conservative national government. Indeed, it’s noticeable that road-charging is not just viwed as inevitable by most politicians and experts, but also support for it as an approach cuts across party lines.
The Liberal Democrats voiced their concern about the need for a scrappage scheme for owners of vehicles that are non-complaint with ULEZ and the Greens sought assurances that road danger reduction would form part of any new traffic reduction schemes.
LCC looks forward to an all-party consensus in the London Assembly on the urgent need to set up a SFRUC scheme in the capital.
The text of the revision to the Mayor’s Transport Strategy approved by the Assembly says:
“Proposal 24.1: The Mayor, through TfL and the boroughs, will seek to address the triple challenges of toxic air pollution, the climate emergency and traffic congestion through road user charging schemes including by expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone London-wide.”
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