This week I’ve been busy digging and I think you’ll find what I’ve unearthed quite interesting.
So in this week’s newsletter:
- The Mayor already has people working on “road user charging” where every London road becomes a toll road.
- The Mayor says the previous ULEZ expansion was a success, but his own report out today says that there’s no way to know.
- The independent assessment of the planned ULEZ expansion says we should expect very little impact on air quality.
Remember, you only have until the end of next week to object to the ULEZ expansion. Please sign our ULEZ petition, give your view directly to the Mayor in his consultation. You can also email your consultation response directly to the mayor:firstname.lastname@example.org which you might find is easier.
Road pricing teams, ramping up
It’s an open secret in City Hall that the Mayor already has people working on “road user charging”, the jargon term for charging every car every time it moves, anywhere in London. In effect, every road in London will become a toll road for those of us living here and anyone who visits.
Then on Thursday we learnt that they’re now hiring “significant numbers” of engineers to ramp up that work.
Watch the clip as my colleague Peter Fortune AM quizzes TfL’s Group Finance Director Patrick Doig about hiring plans for projects in the TfL pipeline. Peter is the excellent London Assembly Member for Bexley and Bromley.
The ULEZ plan isn’t really about clean air, it’s really the start of that road user charging plan.
That becomes obvious when you look at the reports into the ULEZ’s impact on clear air. Read on.
ULEZ 6 month report
Today TfL published its 6 month review of the last year’s ULEZ expansion, to the north and south circular. The Mayor has been claiming that it shows the expansion was a huge success on his terms: traffic is down, pollution is down, air quality is up. The thing is, was that because of ULEZ?
The Mayor says it was but you might be thinking - we’ve just had 2 years of a pandemic, last year the fuel shortages, and this year a huge fuel price spike. Aren’t they the main reason traffic is down? That’s what I thought too, so I wondered how TfL’s analysis dealt with all that.
On page 12 of the report I found the answer: they just ignored it and assumed it was ULEZ.
So the Mayor’s own report admits that those other huge factors mean that you can’t compare traffic patterns over the last few years meaning it’s “difficult to definitively attribute changes in emissions and concentrations to the impacts of the ULEZ”.
That’s a diplomatic way of saying they’ve no way of knowing what impact ULEZ had on air quality, they’ll have to keep monitoring as things go back to normal.
But it hasn’t stopped the Mayor giving all the credit to ULEZ, and claiming last year’s expansion was such a success he needs to expand it again.
Which brings us to:
London-wide ULEZ, independent report
If they’ve no idea what impact the last ULEZ expansion had on air quality, you might be wondering what they’re predicting for the planned expansion to the whole of London.
To hear the Mayor talk, you’d think the ULEZ expansion will be transformative. Back the Mayor’s ULEZ and suddenly we’ll all enjoy clean air – that’s his message. But that’s not the reality.
Engineering firm Jacobs has pored over the details of his expansion plans and produced a 200 page independent report, the “London-wide ULEZ Integrated Impact Assessment”.
It’s very long, technical, and the Mayor is hoping no one looks at it because its findings are damning.
Among many other downsides, it shows a disproportionate financial impact on people on low incomes. A negative financial impact on older people and disabled people. A negative impact on people who receive care at home. And a negative impact on health for people on low incomes, older people, and disabled people.
The negative health impact might surprise you, Jacobs concluded that because they predict higher stress, anxiety, and isolation for people cut off by being priced off the road. And that will be particularly acute in Sutton and Croydon where we know many people’s alternatives to the car are limited.
But what about air quality? Set against all those downsides, Jacobs concluded there would be only a minor beneficial impact on Nitrogen Dioxide, negligible impact on particulates and negligible impact on achieving WHO air quality targets. Also a negligible impact on carbon emissions.
In the report’s jargon, a “negligible impact” means that’s effectively zero.
On Thursday I will be asking the Mayor, in light of all this, why does he think spending hundreds of millions of pounds on a camera network to track vehicles is the best way to improve air quality?
So if you take those three pieces of evidence together, you see a very different picture from the one the Mayor is trying to paint.
No one knows what effect last year’s ULEZ expansion had on air quality. The proposed ULEZ expansion will have only a small effect on air quality, but a range of negative impacts on older, disabled, and poorer Londoners.
And we have the Mayor shouting from the rooftops that black is white and he’s cleaning up the air, while he already has teams working on making every road in London into a toll road.
This is why I oppose the ULEZ expansion. It’s not about cleaning up the air, it’s about building a camera network to allow him to charge a fee on every vehicle in London, every time it moves. I will keep making that point in City Hall.
You only have until the end of next week to object to the London-wide ULEZ expansion. Please sign our ULEZ petition, give your view directly to the Mayor in his consultation. You can also email your consultation response directly to the mayor:email@example.com which you might find is easier than the online consultation.