Motorists are about to get a big shock — and possibly an even bigger fine. That’s because a new ‘green tax’ — that risks pricing some off the road — is expanding across the UK.
The chances are it’s coming to a town or city near you — and if you live in the London area and its suburbs, that will be as soon as Monday.
This tax goes by a variety of bamboozling acronyms dreamt up by policy makers — including ULEZ, CAZ, LEZ and ZEZ — but ultimately the aim is to drive older, more polluting vehicles off the road and encourage motorists to switch to greener cars.
Cleaner capital: Monday will see London’s ULEZ zone expand massively to include all of the city within the boundaries of its outer ring roads
And in most cases, these Clean Air Zones (CAZ) are backed up by daily charges for the most polluting cars — and hefty fines if owners refuse or forget to pay.
The initiative began in 2019 when London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan introduced an Ultra Low Emissions Zone or ‘ULEZ’ — covering the same inner-city area as the congestion charge. But it was originally former mayor Boris Johnson’s idea.
Monday will see London’s ULEZ zone expand massively to include all of the city within the boundaries of its outer ring roads.
If you have a car that is among the cleanest in terms of ‘Euro emissions’, you have nothing to worry about. But if you have a more polluting vehicle, you’ll have to pay £12.50 per day to drive.
If drivers fail or forget to register online to pay, number plate recognition cameras will spot them and issue a £160 fixed penalty, halved to £80 if paid within 14 days.
For non-compliant heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) the charge is £100 a day. Among those likely to be caught out are infrequent visitors to these cities who are unfamiliar with the system. Ignorance of the charging regime is no excuse, insist the council commissars.
Research from used-car firm Motorway shows fewer than half (43 per cent) of motorists are aware of the ULEZ expansion and only a third (35 per cent) know how to check if their vehicle will be charged.
Transport for London (TfL) estimates around 135,000 drivers in the capital are set to be hit by the daily £12.50 charge — with no discount for residents.
However, the AA believes more than 300,000 people in the London area will be affected — many on lower incomes who will struggle to afford to trade up to a cleaner and more expensive car.
The £12.50 ULEZ is an additional charge on top of the Congestion Charge which already costs £15.
So drivers entering London’s central congestion zone in a car that’s not exempt during its operating hours (7am to 10pm) will have to pay a combined sum of £27.50.
Exemption from ULEZ differs depending on the type of vehicle you own and the fuel it uses, classed according to European or ‘Euro’ standards of emissions.
Petrol cars and vans need to meet Euro 4 standards (vehicles post-2006); diesel cars and vans must meet Euro 6 standards (post-2015); motorbikes and mopeds are required to meet Euro 3 standards (post-2007) and buses, coaches and lorries need to meet or exceed the Euro VI standard. Classic cars more than 40 years old — will be exempt from the ULEZ.
Mayor Khan introduced a £61 million scrappage scheme in 2019 to help low-income families switch to greener, fee-avoiding vehicles. TfL says 12,000 vehicles have been scrapped: nearly 7,000 cars and more than 5,000 vans.
AA president Edmund King said: ‘We all want cleaner air but the AA calculates that the London ULEZ on Monday will hit three times more car owners than the Mayor is letting on.
‘The vast majority of those are low-income London residents with the least ability to afford a replacement vehicle.
‘In effect, they are being priced off the road and being denied the mobility that is often critical for getting to work, shopping with a large family and having flexibility in emergencies, such as rushing a child to A&E.’
It has also been pointed out that the system used to classify whether a vehicle is ‘compliant’ is also a ‘blunt instrument’ that does not always accord with the results of real-world emissions tests.
Experts at emissions specialists AIR — which produces its own clean air index for cars — said: ‘The big problem with London’s ULEZ and with the other Clean Air Zones coming soon, is that it fails to use real-world emissions data from cars to control access and relies on the existing standards — the ‘Euro’ stages.’
They added: ‘Testing conducted by AIR has shown that many compliant Euro 6 diesels — which will be exempt from the charge — will still be producing many times the officially published limit.’
> Is a ULEZ, CAZ, LEZ or ZEZ coming to a town or city near you? Read our guide to each emissions tax zone due to be introduced and when they are expected to launch
Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone, introduced in June, charges non-compliant cars £8 per day, backed by a £120 fine, reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days. There’s also a payment ‘window’ of six days either side of the visit in which to register and pay for your car.
Bath brought in a CAZ from June this year. Although cars face no charge, private hire vehicles, taxis and commercial vans must pay £9, and HGVs and buses up to £100.
Nearby Bristol is planning a CAZ from summer 2022, charging non-compliant cars £9 daily, with buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles and lorries facing up to £100.
From February next year, Oxford is to pilot Britain’s first Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) — charging all but electric vehicles to enter eight city-centre streets. All drivers of petrol, diesel or hybrid vehicles will pay £2 to £10 daily, rising from £4 to £20 from 2025.
Also among the other cities introducing or planning clean air zones are: Newcastle upon Tyne, Portsmouth, Bradford, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee.
The big business of toy cars
Corgis: Firing up a lad’s imagination
It’s a gripping story with more twists and turns than a Hollywood smash.
So if you want a really good read, or just a nostalgic trip down memory lane, try Britain’s Toy Car Wars (The History Press, £12.99) by the prolific and entertaining Giles Chapman, author of more than 40 quirky automotive books.
Described as ‘the war of wheels between Dinky, Corgi and Matchbox’, it chronicles how for five decades Britain made the best toy cars in the world, shrinking every kind of vehicle and producing them in their die-cast millions.
Mr Chapman says: ‘These companies fought a 30-year war for your pocket money, pitting Liverpool (home of Dinky) against Swansea (Corgi) and London’s East End (Matchbox).’ Definitely worth raiding your piggy bank for.
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