Vehicles which do not meet the Euro 4 standards for PM and NOx emissions will pay the new fee on top of the Congestion Charge every weekday they drive in the zone from 7am-6pm. It is hoped the T-Charge will help tackle London’s air quality problem, which contributes to thousands of premature deaths each year.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said that the T-Charge will act as a “stepping stone” to the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which could be implemented by 2019.

Khan said: “As Mayor I am determined to take urgent action to help clean up London’s lethal air. The shameful scale of the public health crisis London faces, with thousands of premature deaths caused by air pollution, must be addressed.

“Today marks a major milestone in this journey with the introduction of the T-Charge to encourage motorists to ditch polluting, harmful vehicles.”

It is estimated that 95% of Londoners live in areas exceeding the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on toxic air quality particles (PM2.5). London’s air pollution woes were highlighted earlier this year, when certain areas of the capital breached annual pollution limits just five days into 2017

TfL monitoring data has found that there have been around 15% less older polluting vehicles on the road since the T-Charge was first announced in February. As many as 40% of motorists could upgrade their vehicles as a result of the new charge, according to TfL, with 10% expected to switch to alternatives like public transport in the first year.

‘Must do more’

Today’s launch has been welcomed by politicians and green campaigners as a first step to improving London’s toxic air levels, although some commentators have called for the ULEZ – set to come into force in April 2019 – to be introduced sooner than planned.

London Assembly environment committee chair Leonie Cooper said: “We absolutely must do more to prevent premature deaths and stunting children’s lungs from air pollution – so we welcome the Mayor’s T-Charge as a first step towards making London’s air less toxic. However, the London Assembly Environment Committee believes even greater results could be achieved if the measures were implemented at a faster pace.”

Cooper’s thoughts were echoed by Friends of the Earth campaigner Jenny Bates, who said:  “The upcoming ULEZ should be introduced sooner than planned, cover all London, and apply to cars, not just vans and HGVs. Crucially, the whole scheme must be underpinned by real world testing – not flawed and discredited lab tests.

“If he’s really serious about tackling London’s pollution crisis, the Mayor mustn’t add to the problem with new road-building in the capital.”

Not everyone has welcomed the introduction of the T-Charge. London Assembly member Shaun Baily has accused Khan of “launching an attack” on small business and London’s poorest drivers by introducing a tax that “won’t make a dent” in London’s harmful emissions.

Bailey claims that the charge is likely to only reduce NOx emissions by just 1-3% and will force businesses to pay £2,300 a year.

“Sadiq Khan tells us he is desperate to clean up London’s harmful emissions but this road tax won’t make a dent. I will be happy to support the Mayor when he comes forward with policies that support London and not just his image.

“By boasting about a policy that so disproportionately penalises London’s poorest drivers and puts jobs at risk, the Mayor is simply blowing more smoke into the capital’s already-polluted atmosphere.”

Bailey has put forward an alternative plan which includes further investment in hydrogen buses and targeting pollution hot spots around the capital.

George Ogleby

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