Gas-guzzling vehicles such as 4×4 ‘Chelsea tractors’ will have to pay a daily charge of £25 to enter London’s congestion charge zone from October this year, Ken Livingstone has announced.
Owners of the 4×4 vehicles, as well as some high-powered sports cars and luxury vehicles, will see the charge rising from the current £8 a day as part of the London Mayor’s plan to reduce the capital’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Part of the new congestion charging regime will also see, from October 27, cars with the lowest carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions receiving a 100% discount from the daily charge.
Mr Livingstone said: ‘Nobody needs to damage the environment by driving a gas-guzzling Chelsea tractor in central London. The CO2 emissions from the most high-powered 4x4s and sports cars can be up to four times as great as the least polluting cars.’
Mr Livingstone went on: ‘The CO2 charge will encourage people to switch to cleaner vehicles or public transport and ensure that those who choose to carry on driving the most polluting vehicles help pay for the environmental damage they cause.
‘This is the “polluter pays” principle. At the same time, the 100% discount for the lowest CO2 emitting vehicles will give drivers an incentive to use the least polluting cars available.’
Mr Livingstone said he hoped his initiative would have an impact throughout the world, with other cities following suit.
He said Transport for London would closely monitor the scheme, adding that the new scheme was flexible and that the charges and exemptions could be varied in the future.
The new charging regime will mean that the majority of cars will still pay the current charge of £8 a day.
The £25 charge will apply to vehicles emitting more than 225 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g/k), as well as those registered before March 2001 which have engines larger than 3,000cc.
Those vehicles getting a 100% discount from October will emit less than 120g/k. Of cars currently being driven in the congestion charging zone 17% would be liable for the £25 charge and just 2% for the total discount.
London’s Transport Commissioner, Peter Hendy, said: ‘The congestion charge has been successful at cutting both traffic and congestion and vehicle emissions in central London. But we need to take even more steps to cut CO2 from transport and the CO2 charge will encourage drivers to change their behaviour and change their vehicle choice in the future.’
The congestion charge was initially introduced in February 2003 and covered just central London, with the daily charge set at £5.
Since then the charge has gone up to £8 a day and a western extension, incorporating such areas as Kensington and Chelsea, has been added to the congestion area.
A spokesman for business group London First said: ‘This is just daft – we know this is election year, but encouraging gridlock in the centre of London is no vote winner.
‘Band A and B cars do not reduce CO2, they add to it, and they add to congestion which drives up CO2 emissions from the vehicles stuck in the queue behind them. The Mayor’s policy on congestion is in tatters.’
It is estimated that around 33,000 vehicles that will now fall into the £25 charge sector drive into London each day.
Estimates are that around two thirds of these will no longer come into the charge zone once the new £25 fee is introduced in October.
Mr Hendy said the new charges were likely to bring in £30 million to £50 million a year, with most of this money going on new cycling and walking initiatives.
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