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Nick Bowes

Centre For London calls for ‘fairer’ ULEZ alternatives

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The expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone is the most ambitious scheme of its kind in the world. As COP26 gets underway, all eyes will be on London to watch how successful the ULEZ will be at cleaning up the capital’s air.

However, the ULEZ has its limitations, according to Centre For London Chief Executive Nick Bowes, who was most recently the Mayoral Director of Policy at the Greater London Authority.

“It’s an analogue scheme in a digital age, relying on technology from 2003,” said Bowes. “Many petrol and diesel vehicles are still exempt from the scheme and extending the reach of a flat charge may incentivise Londoners to drive more to get value from their daily payments. And less well-off Londoners who rely on their cars for work and lack the means to switch to a cleaner vehicle will be particularly penalised.

“The Mayor of London should use COP26 as an opportunity to be bold and kickstart plans to replace the growing patchwork of road charges with a simpler, smarter and fairer road user charging scheme which ensures road users pay for the true cost of a journey.

Bowes instead suggests that a ‘pay-per-mile’ road user charging scheme would improve air quality, reduce congestion, encourage Londoners to walk, cycle and use public transport, and help to plug the yawning hole in Transport for London’s budget. Any additional revenue could also top up the Mayor’s scrappage scheme and help Londoners exchange their polluting vehicle for a cleaner one.

“The likelihood is that at some point in the near future the government will have to introduce a nationwide road user charging scheme to replace lost fuel duties. The Mayor should grab the opportunity to go further now so that London has a system that works for the city,” added Bowes.