London’s Low Emission Zone – a small step but a welcome one

Greater London is now a “Low Emission Zone”. It does not mean that everyone in London will be compelled to emit fewer emissions, so do not put away your asthma inhaler yet. It is something rather different.

The LEZ is simply a specific area covering most of London in which if your truck does not meet certified European Union exhaust standards then you will have to pay £200 for every day that you drive within the zone.

The European standard of 0.5 gram of particulates per 1 kilometre for diesel trucks applies to all 12 tonne trucks built after 2001. Older ones can apparently be adapted to meet the standard but this is expensive, although I do not yet know how much it will cost. Initially the LEZ will apply only to lorries.

All vehicles going in and out of the LEZ will be photographed. The licence plate of the vehicle will be used to check against a database of vehicle types meeting these standards – if yours does not then you will get a £200 bill through the post.

Within a few months the scheme will extend to coaches and buses and then within two more years to light vans and small trucks. We are told that there are no plans to extend the LEZ to cars, but I have my doubts.

If you do not pay the £200 charge you will be fined £1000.

If you think that this looks suspiciously like a revenue raising objective then I would agree. I really dislike the fact that this will be policed by cameras; Britons are already the most officially photographed people in the world.

The scheme also only deals with theoretical emissions – actual emissions caused by low driving standards, poor maintenance of vehicles and poor inflated tyres etc are not covered.

If the object of the exercise was to restrict emissions this could be done rather simply by requiring the particulate standard to apply to all vehicles when they have their annual Ministry of Transport test. However, this is an initiative of the Mayor of London’s Transport for London, and not of the Government.

The figures are interesting: it has cost £49 million to set up the cameras and database etc. (some reports claim less). Over a trial period Transport for London found 12,000 lorries in six months did not comply with the emission standard. That would raise around £4.8 million each year – a fair return on the investment of £49 million, but with ample scope for substantially increasing the return by extending the types of vehicles to which the LEZ applies. Some reports claim that it will cost £10 million a year to police the scheme.

I suspect that the figures raised will ultimately be lower after an initial flurry of charges on unsuspecting hauliers who had not realised that the rule was in force. However it will still be an excellent return on investment with the “charges” backed by criminal sanctions if they remain unpaid. If the scheme costs and does not produce a profit then it would be better to sue the cost money in legally requiring all trucks to meet the standards, subsidising them if necessary to to this. Then you could charge foreign trucks that do not meet the standard at the point of entry to the country.

I do welcome the requirement that emission levels from trucks should be as low as possible but this present initiative feels more about money raising than pollution. Simple legislation could prevent lorries polluting above the EU standard without setting up a network of cameras intruding into people’s lives. Other legislation that would also help would include away of ensuring compliance by Eastern European trucks – possibly some form of instant on the spot fine for not complying with the law, a ban on all vehicles (including buses) running their engines while stationary to warm up the cab, fines for road contractors that cause delays and add to pollution by allowing the road works to carry on far longer than necessary. I could go on.

The Mayor of London Ken Livingstone would defend his LEZ by saying that he has acted within his powers and as the Government will not enact the necessary legislation he has to do his best within the powers open to him.

There is truth in that but I bear in mind that the Mayor’s famous Congestion Zone has not reduced congestion. It is in the nature of emissions and pollutions that although they affect a specific area at first, they spread across the whole world, and therefore have limited value. I think that the London LEZ is a very small step but a welcome one which makes us all wonder why not do more to tackle the problem of diesel particulate emission.

Transport for London’s Low Emission Zone road signs proudly unvieled yesterday remind me of the road signs that you used to see outside some cities and boroughs years ago, which would proudly proclaim “You are now entering a nuclear free zone”. Did anyone bother to tell the Soviets?

One Response

  1. […] dealblawg wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptI suspect that the figures raised will ultimately be lower after an initial flurry of charges on unsuspecting hauliers who had not realised that the rule was in force. However it will still be an excellent return on investment with the … […]

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