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News and Comment July 2021

Index: 2019202020212022

9 July - Never trust the London Mayor

Well that was disappointing, I failed to notice that the Transport Users’ Sub-Committee meeting was no longer on the webcast list and when I did it was far too late to put in a personal appearance. To be honest I have no idea what the procedure would be and I doubt I would have been welcomed as I have been nursing an awful cold for a week. Just sneezing and a constantly running nose that does not respond to hay fever pills. (Today it is much better.)

As a result I missed the TfL presentation on their Ultra Low Emission Zone which Mayor Khan is to introduce on 25th October at a reported cost of £130 million. I therefore have no idea how TfL justifies its introduction. Worse is that with local newspapers a thing of the past no one will know what was said in the Council Chamber and one begins to wonder why a small handful of Councillors bother to meet at all.

It is a long time since I walked across central London but I recall that Oxford Street stank of diesel fumes from buses. I understand that is largely resolved with the introduction of cleaner diesel engines, hybrids and electric buses; however there is no denying that air pollution can be a problem as the pink sky over London occasionally testifies.
Khan thinks he can do something about it. That is spend about £15 per capita of population on solving a problem that is rapidly disappearing anyway. What does that come to? £40 to £50 a household in order to penalise the less well off who cannot afford to run petrol cars built since 2006. (Diesel since 2015 approximately.)

Is Khan spending your £130 million wisely? So far this year, until the end of June, 900,973 new cars have been registered in the UK and the total number of vehicles on the road is declining. (Covid again.) The average age of cars still in use is just over eight years and more than six million are still in use aged 15 years and more.

The total number of cars in use in the whole country approaches 39 million but only 2·5 million are registered to London addresses. That’s almost exactly 6·5% of the total.

It may be a big if but if that 6·5% is applied to purchases (900,000 in UK in six months) one might assume that around 120,000 new cars are registered to London addresses each year and rather more are sold or pensioned off.

Assuming car ownership in London is proportionate to the country as a whole there will be about 400,000 old (more than 15 years) cars in London and they are being replaced at the rate of 120,000 a year.

All the above figures come from Government websites. There are a few unknowns such as the proportion of diesel to petrol powered cars and whether new vehicles result in another being scrapped or resold in London but with the total number reducing there are sure indications that pollution levels are on course to reduce dramatically over the next few years. So why is Khan willing to spend £130 million on taxing the poor for a very short term advantage?

My guess is his scheme has little to do with pollution, he will likely change the ULEZ to a congestion charge at the earliest opportunity, the same as he considered on the GLA boundary. It is the only thing that can justify such a colossal waste of money and the plans to rid the existing Congestion Zone of all exceptions in 2025 has already been announced. It is not difficult to see what Khan is aiming to do.

If Bexley Council had bothered to webcast their meeting we would know if any Councillor followed up this line of enquiry. Like most of Khan’s ideas this one seems to be little more than virtue signalling, unless of course he is simply lying.

I only know three people whose cars are not ULEZ compliant. One never needs to go into central or north London, so no Blackwall tunnel, and therefore plans to keep on polluting. Another runs a banger, not because he can’t afford to replace it but because he likes it. His hand has now been forced, and finally a lady who lives on one side of the North Circular with an elderly mother on the other. She runs a 20 year old VW Beetle. It is going to be swapped for a 40 year old MGB GT. Pollutes like hell but exempt from ULEZ. Well done Khan.


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