Sadiq Khan‘s controversial expansion of the Ulez has started with chaotic scenes as cameras are vandalised by vigilantes, TfL’s number plate checker website crashes and councils outside London refuse to put up signage for the scheme.
The move, which came into effect at midnight, now means people will have to pay £12.50 a day to drive certain vehicles into the city – something that will bring an extra £2.5million a day into City Hall and is set to raise billions in the coming years.
Such has been the anger that some motorists have taken it upon themselves to damage and vandalise Ulez cameras in the areas where the expansion is being implemented, spraying the lenses with paint and even demolishing them entirely.
This morning the embattled mayor insisted the expansion of the scheme was not ‘anti-car or anti-motorist’, but Tories branded the policy a ‘money-raising exercise’ with Transport Secretary Mark Harper saying he would have blocked it if he had the power.
The implementation has not been smooth sailing either, with Transport for London’s (TfL) number plate checker website – which allows motorists to see if their vehicle will be charged – slowing to a crawl and holding people in an online queue due to the volume of traffic.
Meanwhile, councils bordering London have refused to put up the road signs warning drivers they are about to enter the Ulez. Of the seven local authorities that border the capital, only Slough has reached an agreement with TfL – councils in Kent, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Surrey and Thurrock have not done so yet.
The expansion has sparked anger among motorists, with some taking matters into their own hands and destroying Ulez cameras
Sadiq Khan, pictured this morning walking to Milbank Studios in central London, has pushed ahead with his controversial Ulez expansion
New Ulez signs have been put up on the M4 near Heathrow Airport to warn drivers they’re about to enter the zone
A total of six councils – Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, Surrey and Thurrock – have refused to put up Ulez signage
The Ulez hits petrol vehicles introduced earlier than 2005 that are not compliant with Euro 4 emissions regulations.
Meanwhile, diesel cars and vans are only exempt if their engine complies with more recent Euro 6 rules, which were introduced in September 2015.
This will snare popular vans registered before the cut-off date including Ford Transit Custom 310s.
The RAC has criticised councils that refused to put up signage about the Ulez, saying they should ‘just give in’ so motorists can have advance warning.
Simon Williams, spokesperson for the RAC told BBC London: ‘I think the councils who are contesting or battling the mayor of London probably need to just give in and give drivers a little bit of advance warning.
‘I think people do need a good advance warning of the fact they’re entering the Ulez zone so it’s time that councils stopped resisting and actually go ahead and put up the signs so everyone approaching the zone from all directions has adequate warning’
It comes amid ongoing rows between the the councils and the Mayor over a lack of support for people living in the home counties.
People living in London have been offered the chance to exchange vehicles that fall foul of the regulations in a scrappage scheme, but the same choice has not been given to those who reside outside the capital.
Martin Gough, the leader of Kent Council, said: ‘We’re not prepared to facilitate a scheme against the interests of our residents and for which the mitigation others in London have been offered, have not been offered.’
Other authorities, including Surrey County Council and Buckinghamshire Council have also refused to sign agreements to have the signs installed until ‘mitigation’ is in place for their residents impacted by the scheme.
According to London’s deputy mayor for transport, Seb Dance, the decision by councils is ‘letting down residents’, adding that if drivers are fined due to the lack of warning signs, then the local authorities should bear the responsibility.
A spokesperson for the mayor previously said council’s might be made accountable if drivers are not ‘fully aware’ of the boundaries of the Ulez, adding that county highways authorities have statutory obligations and that TfL had offered to fund the cost of the installation of the signs.
Sadiq Khan has steamed ahead with the expansion despite criticism over its impact on residents during the cost of living crisis, as well as allegedly ignoring an independent report commissioned by City Hall claiming the larger zone would have only a ‘negligible’ effect on reducing carbon emissions this year.
In a tweet this morning, the mayor took a triumphant tone, writing: ‘It’s here: in a move that will see 5million more Londoners breathe cleaner air, the Ulez has expanded to cover all of London today.’
In a tweet this morning, the mayor took a triumphant tone, writing: ‘It’s here: in a move that will see 5million more Londoners breathe cleaner air, the Ulez has expanded to cover all of London today’
Protesters parked a caravan with anti-Ulez slogans painted on it at the end of Mr Khan’s road this week
Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, Mr Khan said: ‘We now have a really effective policy to reduce air pollution.
‘It’s shown to be effective in central London and inner London, but I think clean air is a right not a privilege.
‘What about outer London? Why shouldn’t they breathe clean air? Why should they carry on dying prematurely in numbers that could be reversed?’
He added that TfL has received more than 15,000 applications for its Ulez scrappage scheme in the past week.
‘I was able to announce a policy where every single Londoner is now eligible to apply,’ he said.
‘I spoke to TfL this morning. They turn around these (applications) within a matter of days.
‘In the last week there have been – as we predicted – more than 15,000 applications. I think 14,000 vehicles have already been scrapped.
‘I’d encourage your viewers, check whether your vehicle is compliant. It probably is. If it’s not, apply for support.’
But Mr Khan ruled out a pay-per-mile scheme for motorists, telling Times Radio: ‘I am ruling out a pay-per-mile scheme whilst I am mayor, it’s not on the agenda, it’s not on the table.
‘But it’s no secret that the Government, transport officials in London and around the country, have been looking at for some time, in relation to a smarter, streamlined service for a variety of reasons, not least because the Government are worried about fuel revenues drying up over the course of the next few years.
‘In fact, Boris Johnson, when he was the mayor of London – remember him? – in his transport strategy there was talk about a pay-per-mile scheme.
‘When Rishi Sunak was chancellor he asked his Treasury officials to look into this schemes. There’s no secrecy around this.’
He added: ‘The policy to clean the air in London is not anti-car or anti-motorist.
‘The good news is actually nine out of 10 cars seen driving in outer London on an average day are already compliant.
‘So there is no additional fee for you to pay, no restrictions on you, yet you benefit from the clean air.
‘But I accept there are a small number of cars that will be affected, they are non-compliant cars.
‘They themselves, the drivers, breath in pollutants, and that’s why I’ve announced that every single driver in London of a car or motorbike, every small business with a van, every charity with a minibus, will receive financial support (for scrapping non-compliant vehicles).’
Some anti-Ulez protesters have vandalised cameras used by the scheme by spray-painting them
Traffic builds up on the A243 near Chessington World of Adventures this morning on the first day of the Ulez expansion
Transport Secretary Mark Harper claimed this morning that if he had the power to do so, he would block the Ulez expansion.
He said: ‘I don’t have the power to stop it coming into force. That’s a decision for the Mayor of London backed by the Labour leader. I think he should think again.
How do I know if I’ve driven in the expanded Ulez?
The zone runs all day, every day, except December 25. Anywhere within a London borough is now covered. Signs will mark where it begins, and TfL’s website has a postcode checker, as a well a number plate checker to see if your vehicle is exempt.
How do I pay?
Drivers of non-compliant vehicles regularly entering the Ulez have been urged to sign up to an account on TfL’s website. They will automatically be charged £12.50 if they enter the zone. One-off payments can be made up to midnight at the end of the third day after the journey.
What are the fines?
Failure to pay the daily fee can lead to a penalty notice of £180, reduced to £90 if paid within 14 days.
Can I challenge it?
Yes. TfL says there is a 28-day window from the date the penalty is served to do so.
Are there exemptions?
Self-employed workers may be able to claim back the fee on their tax return if the journey was deemed ‘an exceptional trip solely for business’.
‘He says this has to do with air quality, his own impact assessment says this will only have a minor to negligible effect on air pollution.
‘It’s not about air pollution, it’s about a money-raising exercise and this is absolutely not the time to be putting all those costs on hard-pressed and hard-working Londoners and those in the area outside London.’
Asked if he would stop the expansion if he had the power, Mr Harper said: ‘Yes, I don’t have the power, though.
‘We’ve looked at this really carefully. Despite what some people say, including on your channel, I don’t have the legal power to block it.
‘That’s a decision for the Mayor of London, and it’s not too late for him to think again.’
Figures buried in the mayor’s budget for the year suggest the Ulez, when combined with the separate Low Emission Zone, and the central London Congestion Charge will generate £1.028billion for Transport for London.
The budget for the previous year was just £773.6million – an indication of the likely impact of extending the zone.
Susan Hall, the Tory candidate due to face Mr Khan in next year’s mayoral elections, described the expansion, which will see motorists with the highest-polluting cars shell out £12.50 or risk a £180 fine, as ‘nothing but a tax grab’.
Ms Hall said: ‘It will have a devastating impact on those who can least afford it. An overwhelming majority of Londoners, including senior figures in his own party, have told him to stop. It is a shame that Sadiq Khan would rather take millions from the poorest than admit he was wrong.’
She said she would scrap the expansion on her first day in office, if elected.
Mr Harper previously said: ‘Sadiq Khan’s decision to expand the Ulez, backed by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, is the latest salvo in Labour’s war on motorists.
‘The realities of Labour politicians in positions of power are ideological policies that hit hardworking motorists hard. It’s nothing more than a Labour mayor’s money grab.’
Steve Tuckwell, the new Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip whose west London seat is affected by the levy, said his recent by-election victory was proof of constituents rejecting the Ulez expansion.
He said: ‘Londoners sent mayor Sadiq Khan a clear message – halt your Ulez expansion.
‘My residents, and countless others across London, cannot go on being ignored by the Labour Party, who are making the political choice to expand Ulez, saddling families and businesses with up to £4,500 a year – a tax on carers, parents, patients, sole traders and all hard-working Londoners. I’m telling Sadiq Khan, scrap your Ulez expansion, or Londoners will show him the door next year.’
The expansion of the Ulez means places such as Heathrow Airport are now covered by the scheme
Mr Khan said last year that he thought the expansion could generate a net income of around £200million.
However, City Hall officials have admitted there will be no net revenue from the Ulez after 2027, with motorists switching to green vehicles, avoiding London, or giving up their cars completely.
Just one in four (25 per cent) of 1,175 UK adults said they supported the idea of a similar ultra low emission zone in their area.
The People Polling survey for GB News found more than half (54 per cent) were opposed.
One-fifth said they did not know, or preferred not to say. Mr Khan introduced the Ulez in April 2019, and then increased it further to cover everywhere between the North and South Circular roads in 2021.
Today’s expansion covers all of Greater London and an additional five million people.
Five Conservative-led councils on the outskirts of the scheme took the mayor to court in an effort to stop it.
But the High Court subsequently ruled the mayor’s legal basis for expansion was sound.
The Government briefly looked into whether it could block the rollout, but discovered it did not have the power to do so.
Civilians have taken matters into their own hands, by removing, covering up, or vandalising cameras used to enforce the Ulez.
TfL said nine out of ten cars and around eight in ten vans seen driving in outer London on an average day are already compliant.
It said motorists who drive non-compliant vehicles across the expanded Ulez network may initially get a warning letter rather than a penalty notice.
It added that the Ulez is ‘not about making money, but about improving the health and wellbeing of millions of Londoners’. It said all money raised was ‘reinvested into walking, cycling and public transport’.
Chaos for Sadiq Khan as signs for Low Emission Zone are ruled ILLEGAL after action by driver who appealed after he ran up fines of £11,500
A scaffolder has won a legal ruling that signs for London’s Low Emission Zone – the sister scheme of Sadiq Khan’s hated ULEZ – are not lawful.
Noel Willcox, 48, ran up fines of £11,500 for driving a company truck to and from a depot in Harefield, North West London.
Drivers at the wheel of highly polluting vans and HGVs must pay up to £300 a day under the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) or face huge penalties.
Mr Willcox, from Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, refused to pay and took his appeal to a tribunal, which ruled in his favour, saying Transport for London (TfL) signs for the LEZ were not ‘authorised and lawful’.
Now the businessman, from Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, is encouraging other road users to launch similar challenges.
Noel Willcox, from Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, refused to pay fines and took his appeal to a tribunal, which ruled in his favour, saying Transport for London signs for the LEZ were not ‘authorised and lawful’
He told MailOnline: ‘You look at the Dart Charge or the Congestion Charge, and the signage is very clear – the white ‘C’ in the red circle.
‘It warns you on billboards on the approach, it’s written on the road surface, and then it reminds you afterwards to make sure you pay.
‘There’s nothing like that with the Low Emission Zone and it has been deemed unlawful because motorists have to be told if there is a risk they are going to be charged under the Road Traffic Act.
‘I was being literally hounded for more than a year by bailiffs through phone calls and emails, and they even came to my office.
‘It was just awful, particularly just off the back off the pandemic. It put massive pressure on me and the business.
‘The working person is being absolutely decimated by the state.’
Mr Willcox has been backed in his campaign by Nick Freeman, the motoring lawyer known as ‘Mr Loophole’.
He said: ‘While Noel’s victory is not binding on other courts, I believe the case of Elevation Access Ltd v TfL can be used by other drivers hit with penalties and fines to appeal.
‘Because this was a hearing at the first level it is not legally binding. But it is what’s known as ‘persuasive’, which means it can be used in other cases.
‘I believe the tribunal made the right ruling and TfL have got it wrong. In my view there is insufficient information on the signs. They don’t comply with the regulations.’
TfL insisted the signs were deemed lawful by the Department of Transport more than a decade ago and said it is investigating why certain evidence was not submitted.