The T-Charge, otherwise known as the Emissions Surcharge, will start in the autumn half-term and operate alongside and on top of the Congestion Charge, which runs Monday to Friday from 7am to 6pm in Central London.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It’s staggering that we live in a city where the air is so toxic that many of our children are growing up with lung problems. If we don’t make drastic changes now we won’t be protecting the health of our families in the future.

“That is why today, on the 14th anniversary of the start of the congestion charge, I’ve confirmed we are pressing ahead with the toughest emission standard of any major city, coming to our streets from October 23rd. Londoners overwhelmingly support my plans to introduce this £10 charge because they feel when it comes to battling pollution the time for action is now.”

Air pollution is a major health concern in London, as well as numerous UK cities, with more than 9,000 Londoners dying prematurely due to long-term exposure to high levels of pollutants.

The T-Charge, which could impact up to 10,000 vehicles that are failing to meet Euro 4 standards, is the latest weapon in the Mayor’s arsenal to combat air pollution. London plans to introduce the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone as early as 2019, and the Mayor has committed to double spending on air quality to £875m over the next five years.

In total, more than 37 stakeholders and organisations – including numerous councils, Global Action Plan and the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association – support the principle of the T-Charge, which uses cameras as monitoring and enforcement measures.

When combining the T-Charge with the Congestion charges, motorists could be faced with costs of around £21.50 daily. The Mayor has confirmed that cars most likely to be effected by the new charges are diesel and petrol vehicles registered before 2006.

Diesel scrappage

However, a Department for Transport (DfT) investigation revealed that some vehicles are still producing up to 12 times the EU maximum limit for road-tested emissions and motorists have been advised to check compliance via the Transport for London (TfL) website. Consumers will also receive advice on what action to take if their vehicle does exceed the limits.

One answer could be found in the mooted diesel scrappage scheme. The Dft is said to be working with Defra on a scheme which will offer cashback or a discount for people to scrap old diesel vehicles in exchange for low-emission models. Khan believes that a quick introduction of the scheme would provide much-needed funds to enhance air quality legislation.

“I will continue to do everything in my power to help protect the health of Londoners and clean our filthy air,” Khan added. “But now is the time for Government to show real leadership and join me by introducing a diesel scrappage fund and bring in the new Clean Air Act we desperately need.”

Over the last 15 years, a variety of policy and tax enablers have seen diesel car sales in Britain increase from 14% to 36%. But the latest research shows that these diesel vehicles are now responsible for almost 40% of all NO2 emissions in the UK’s major cities.

In an attempt to reverse this trend, Khan has committed to spending more than £300m on hybrid and zero-emission double-decker buses from 2018. Research from LowCVP has found that this transition could deliver £248m in social benefits to the UK by 2020.

Consumers and businesses hit by the charges can also apply for various Plug-in grants, which run to 2018 and offer up to £4,500 towards the cleanest new cars and up to £20,000 for fully-electric vans.

First steps

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth have been involved in a long-running court battle, which the Mayor has supported, with the UK Government over spiralling air pollution levels. The firm’s chief executive James Thornton, believes that the T-Charge announcement should act as the first step to combating pollution through transport.

“The T-Charge is absolutely essential to protect human health in the short-term and pave the way for the Mayor’s expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone, but needs to go further and be applied to more diesel vehicles,” Thornton said.

“The High Court made it crystal clear that protecting human health must take top priority – so the Government should be working with the Mayor to speed up policies and mitigate the impacts on drivers and small businesses through a scrappage scheme and other fiscal policies – not holding him back.”

London’s air pollution woes heightened earlier this year, when certain areas of the capital breached annual pollution limits just five days into 2017. For Greenpeace’s clean air campaigner Areeba Hamid, the T-Charge arrives at a critical time in London, but warned that any delays to other initiatives would be “short-sighted”.

“This charge is an essential first step in reducing harmful air pollution in London. Air pollution can help to cause and worsen life threatening conditions like heart disease and asthma; and ultimately that’s shortening people’s lives,” Hamid said.

“There are areas all over London that regularly experience ultra-high levels of air pollution that are toxic to human health, so we cannot delay action to tackle this issue. Any delay is short-sighted, and risks condemning a generation of Londoners to poor health.”

Matt Mace

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