‘It’s a matter of life and death:’ Sadiq Khan refuses to delay Ulez expansion

·3-min read
‘It’s a matter of life and death:’ Sadiq Khan refuses to delay Ulez expansion

Sadiq Khan has refused to delay the expansion of the ultra-low emission zone by insisting the need to clean up London’s toxic air is a “matter of life and death”.

The Mayor has faced calls to postpone Monday’s widening of the zone – to the inner boundaries of the North and South Circular roads – to allow more time for Londoners whose income has been hit by the pandemic to trade in their cars.

He told BBC London on Thursday night: “This is a matter of life and death. We can’t afford to wait any longer.”

The GLA Conservatives have called for a 12-month delay and say it is wrong to clean up London’s air “on the backs of the poorest”.

But Mr Khan said 4,000 Londoners a year were dying prematurely because of the impacts of air pollution.

He had spoken with Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, whose daughter Ella was the first in the UK to have pollution recorded by a coroner as a contributory factor in her death, and said the capital was facing an “air pollution crisis”.

He said that 60 per cent of people living in the area covered by the enlarged zone didn’t own a car, and it was the poorest Londoners who lived in areas with the worst pollution.

It emerged yesterday that a Freedom of Information request published by Transport for London last Christmas showed there were 337,000 cars registered within the expanded zone in 2019 that did not meet the Ulez emission standards and faced having to pay the £12.50 a day levy.

TfL’s latest estimates are that 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans and 2,000 HGVs – which will pay a £100 levy – a day will be liable to pay, generating about £2m a day in payments and penalty fines.

TfL finance chief Patrick Doig told the TfL board earlier this week that “the actual level of net revenue [from the Ulez] is extremely uncertain”.

Mr Khan, in a separate appearance on the Late Debate on ITV London last night, said the income generated by the Ulez extension would be “quite limited”.

He insisted he was “keen” that no-one paid the charge, as this would mean they would be travelling in a “clean” vehicle, or using public transport, walking or cycling.

About 80 per cent of vehicles in the expanded zone already comply with the emission rules. In general, drivers of petrol vehicles more than 15 years old and diesel vehicles more than six years old will have to pay the 24/7 levy, which applies to vehicles entering or moving within the zone.

Asked whether he had plans to expand the Ulez further across Greater London, Mr Khan said: “Let’s wait and see what the results are.”

The environmental law charity ClientEarth, which has won three court cases against the UK Government over its failure to address chronic air pollution, said help should be given to people on lower incomes and small businesses to enable them to switch to greener forms of transport.

Less than £2m is thought to remain in a £61m Ulez scrappage fund established by Mr Khan and thousands of requests for help have been delayed or refused.

Katie Nield, a lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “Toxic air harms the health of too many Londoners every year and the reality is that it won’t disappear on its own. Evidence shows that measures like the Ulez are the most effective way to reduce lethal and illegal air pollution quickly. That’s why the expansion is a lifeline for Londoners.

“The next step for the Mayor now is to ensure the Ulez works for the whole of Greater London so it protects people’s health in all corners of the capital, while securing funds to support those who need it.

“Children from Croydon to Brent should be able to breathe the same cleaner air regardless of where they live. This is an environmental justice issue.”

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