Millions of drivers are in danger of being hit by a new pay-per-mile road tax under Labour plans seen by The Mail on Sunday.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for an army of experts to build a ‘sophisticated’ new pricing system for the capital’s roads – using the cameras installed for his hugely controversial ultra low emission zone (Ulez) and Congestion Charge schemes.
It would mean drivers could incur charges based on the length of the trip taken, the congestion levels on the roads and the levels of pollution emitted.
A source said: ‘It is an open secret in City Hall that it is being worked on.’
A dedicated website called Project 2030 contains a request for engineers to ‘join TfL [Transport for London] now’ to ‘lead the way in introducing a new, more sophisticated type of road pricing’.
Drivers could be hit with a new pay-per-mile road tax after London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for an army of experts to build a ‘sophisticated’ new pricing system
As the Labour Mayor prepares to expand his controversial ultra low emission zone (Ulez) scheme in the capital on Tuesday, the plans for an even more far-reaching tax are being drawn up
The move has sparked concerns that Labour could roll out similar road taxes across the country, hitting millions. Amid claims that the party is working towards a ‘carless society’, Transport Secretary Mark Harper has written to Sir Keir Starmer to warn that the Government would legislate to block Labour from bringing in road charging.
Although Mr Khan has denied any plans for per-mile charging, papers produced by the Mayor’s office and TfL explain how road pricing could work: ‘New technology could be used to integrate existing schemes such as the Congestion Charge, Lez and Ulez into a smarter, simpler and fair scheme that would charge motorists on a per-mile basis.
‘Different charging rates would apply depending on variables such as how polluting a vehicle is, the level of congestion in the area and access to public transport.’
The document, which was part of a consultation on Ulez, added: ‘We are now starting to explore the potential for future road user charging.’
A well-placed source said the cameras from Ulez and the congestion charge could be used to develop the levy.
Mr Harper said: ‘It has been suggested Labour plan to use air pollution to attempt to justify bringing in pay-per-mile charging for every car in London.’
He added that the Government will back an amendment to the upcoming Levelling Up Bill to ensure such changes require local council consent.
Ulez, which charges every vehicle that does not meet emissions standards £12.50 a day, is being expanded to the outskirts of London on Tuesday.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper has written to Sir Keir Starmer to warn that the Government would legislate to block Labour from bringing in road charging
Ulez, which charges every vehicle that does not meet emissions standards £12.50 a day, is being expanded to the outskirts of London on Tuesday
A Government source said: ‘Ulez is just the start for them. The next stage is driving cars off the road. Labour’s vision is basically a carless society – certainly in the cities. They have been looking how to technically do this for every road.’
Labour has dismissed the claims as ‘completely untrue’.
The Mayor, who chairs TfL, has said his aim is for 80 per cent of all trips in the capital to be car-free by 2041 – through walking, cycling or using public transport.
Road pricing is seen as a way of plugging the growing hole in the public finances due to more people switching to electric cars, which are exempt from road tax.
The Project 2030 website invites engineers and computer experts to register their interest and upload their CVs – as well as listing what it says are relevant job adverts.
It adds: ‘Help us build the next generation road use charging platforms.’ Tory MP Bob Blackman said TfL’s recruitment drive was ‘outrageous’ and that Mr Khan ‘needs to come clean with what his intention is’.
The Harrow East MP added that TfL ‘should be upfront, say this is what we are doing and why we are doing it. After that, people should have the right to have a say – before they start wasting people’s money.’
The ULEZ expansion scheme is set to start on August 29. Sadiq Khan has pumped another £50 million into the scrappage scheme, setting its cost at an eye watering £160 million
Last month, the Mayor’s spokesman said that per-mile technology was ‘many years away’ and that ‘there is no prospect of it being introduced in the foreseeable future’.
But Patrick Doig, TfL’s group finance director, said it is recruiting a ‘significant number’ of ‘software engineers and other technical specialists to look at designing a future road user charging system’.
In comments to a London Assembly meeting seen by this newspaper, Mr Doig said: ‘The Mayor has asked us to explore new technology, to see if we can improve the way we charge, to make it fairer and smarter.
‘So that team are also exploring some of the technical feasibility of that work.’
In The Sunday Times today, Mr Khan says he believes that he will be on the ‘right side of history’ over Ulez.
Last month, Roads Minister Richard Holden told MPs he had met senior TfL officials who told him: ‘The Mayor of London, in anticipation of falling revenues from the Ulez in the future, had asked them to investigate the technicalities of introducing road charging.’
Howard Cox, of the FairFuel campaign, said: ‘Ulez has always been a front for a future pay-per-mile taxation plan. This dishonest Mayor has always known this unpopular way to fleece drivers was his aim.’
TfL said: ‘We continually look to recruit the appropriate talent to ensure we can offer the best capability for our services.’
A spokesman for Mr Khan said the allegations are ‘complete nonsense’. ‘Sadiq is crystal clear – a pay-per-mile scheme is not on the table and not on his agenda,’ they added.