T for two

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Our coaching insider wonders whether the cost of implementing another Cycle Superhighway across south London can really be justified.

Do you know about the Toxicity Charge in London? Our coaching insider does and wonders whether the cost of implementing another Cycle Superhighway across south London effectively represents a double charge on the industry

On October 23, 2017, the Mayor of London implemented the Toxicity Charge, which is being applied to the current Congestion Charge zone and represents a tough new emissions standard for some vehicles entering central London.

The £10 ‘Toxicity Charge’, also known as the Emissions Surcharge or T-Charge, is on top of the congestion charge (Monday to Friday 0700-1800hrs) and the result is it now costs £21.50 to drive a pre-Euro 4 vehicle in the zone. A camera-based mechanism is used for enforcement and failure to pay the daily charge will result in a £130 fine, reduced to £65 if paid within 14 days.[wlm_nonmember][…]

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Up to 10,000 of the oldest, most polluting vehicles are expected every weekday to be liable for the new emissions levy, which will apply to diesel and petrol vehicles registered before 2006. This has not been widely or reasonably advertised and, as a result, there is a great deal of shock from the general public at what has been implemented. Whilst this column has drilled down deeply into London issues in the past, this does have far wider implications for the rest of the UK.

London taxi drivers complain that they are being ‘poisoned’ not by the vehicle element as such, but more by the slow moving traffic situation created by Cycling Superhighways, which have reduced the available road space and very obviously contributed to congestion. How then can pollution reduce if you can still pay a charge for the same polluting vehicles which indeed the London Mayor, as an MP, encouraged everyone to buy (see previous editions of Leo Pard)?

The debate continues to rage on BBC Radio as the now better informed public call in to point out that their cars pass an emission test annually when they’re MOT’d, but are now being told that they do not conform – double standards indeed.

When the checker on the TfL (Transport for London) website was first put up, drivers were advised to enter the registration number of their vehicles to find out if they complied. However, when they did that, they found that it was not accurate. It showed vehicles on private plates as they were two years ago – out-of-date information that would give rise to incorrectly issued fines from TfL.

London Assembly Member Shaun Bailey believes the T-Charge, as well as the Mayor’s planned expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), will put jobs at risk. Earlier this year, he put forward an alternative plan which included investing more in hydrogen buses and targeting pollution hot spots around the capital.

Another Assembly Member, Jenny Jones from the Green Party, argues (as is her job to do so) that not enough is being done and everyone should be taxed to the hilt for almost ‘just being on the planet.’ In essence the Mayor has not gone far enough, she says, adding that the money raised will go back into public transport and will help subsidies the buses. However, her interviewer, when she made the above points, disputed that. Does it therefore then become merely a means of income for TfL as effectively it’s another fare subsidy? That remains an unanswered question.

The impact on businesses like our very own coach industry is huge. For those with a non-complaint T-Charge vehicle, there’s another £10 a day to recover from your customers in a ‘why has it gone up again’ kind of way. Will the coach brokers consider that and add a further margin, which we operators will not get? Yes of course they will.

As a regional coach operator you may not want to come into London with good reason, but as similar schemes are rolled out across the country, you probably should read and contribute to the latest proposals for Cycling Superhighway 4 (CS4), which will reduce a sizeable chunk of the available space on some of the slowest moving South London roads. It could be by as much as 30%. Have a look at that and comment on https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/cs4/

What this does is take more road lanes away and devote them to another expensive publically funded cycle lane, without any contribution to the cost of that from the users. Where there is conflict over this particular route, is that National Cycling Network route 4 provision is already in place for 14 miles between Putney and Greenwich. It covers quite well the proposed route of the new CS4 through Putney Bridge, Battersea, Westminster, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, and onto Greenwich without any requirement for any additional major expenditure.

As it already exists, and keeps cyclists safe as well as providing priority for pedestrians, do we need another T-Charge for two (cycle lanes)?[/wlm_ismember]