Following Boris Johnson’s scrapping of Ken Livingstone’s revised Congestion Charge plans, along with the Western extension of the scheme, he has now announced that phase three of London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) will be suspended.
This news, just two days before the emission-reducing scheme’s first birthday, has been welcomed by leading industry body the Freight Transport Association (FTA). Phase three of the scheme – which sought to bring smaller commercial vehicles under LEZ regulation – will now face public consultation and is expected to be scrapped due to significant concerns over its cost to industry and small businesses in particular.
Gordon Telling, FTA’s Head of Policy for London, said: “City Hall has listened to industry and the FTA and reviewed this unpopular and ill-conceived scheme, which amounted to little more than window dressing. The LEZ accomplished very little, mainly because a large number of emission-compliant road vehicles already operate in and around London. Unfortunately the cost to business – and to Londoners – has been far from small.”
The LEZ was introduced on 4 February last year to reduce emissions in the capital, but the FTA claims it has left local residents and businesses with a massive bill to pay and very little improvement in air quality.
Telling continued: “LEZ’s benefits were completely overestimated, unlike the price tag that went with it. Taxpayers’ money has been wasted on publicity, signage and cameras to catch just a handful of older, more polluting trucks. The cost of finding this out has been about £50 million in set up costs and a further £10 million in annual running costs. At least now the damage has been limited and we can start to look at more intelligent ways of reducing emissions in the capital without more companies being put out of business.”
Bringing vehicles up to the required standards has already cost business around £40 million. It was feared that if the go-ahead had been given to widen the scheme to include small vans, many thousands of small businesses, including builders, electricians, plumbers, florists and greengrocers, would have to face punishing costs. Many would have been driven out of business, simply because they could not afford the cost of modification, which can reach £5,000, or to replace their vehicles.
The FTA contends that the Freight Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) – a unique, industry-led membership scheme that aims to transform freight delivery in London – will be a far more effective way of reducing emissions in London than LEZ by prioritising best practice procedures including reducing freight’s impact on the environment. By contrast, the LEZ has effectively diverted potential funds away from buying cleaner vehicles that could have been achieved via incentivising commercial vehicle operators to adopt electric, hybrid and cleaner, higher-Euro standard (Euro 5) vehicles.