Londoners are preparing to expand into a low-emissions zone – News Couple
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Londoners are preparing to expand into a low-emissions zone


For Terry Glasscock, owner of a printing company in southeast London, an ambitious initiative by the mayor of the British capital to reduce air pollution has bumped into the realities of running a small business in difficult times.

Glasscock will have to pay a daily tax of £12.50 to get shipments to its customers from Monday, as London’s ultra-low emissions zone, or Ulez, expands amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ulez, which aims to rid London of older and more polluting cars, was introduced by Mayor Sadiq Khan in 2019 and focused on the city centre.

Any driver of an older, more polluting vehicle must pay a daily tax of £12.50 to drive within Ulez.

Starting this week, Ulez will expand to nearly 20 times its original size to include the area between the North and South Ring Roads, stretching from Tottenham in the north to Brixton in the south, and from Brentford in the west to Barking in the east.

This has prompted many residents living within the expanded Ulez, as well as businesses, to upgrade to less polluting vehicles to avoid paying the tax, although some struggle to afford it.

And some companies outside of Ulez must decide whether to replace their cars for the same reason.

Ulez’s borders extend through Eltham, where Glasscock’s printing company is based, but while his office is outside his office, many of his clients are inside.

He said he couldn’t afford to upgrade his diesel truck which goes against Ulez rules, and estimated the mayor’s initiative would likely cost his company, which prints everything from large vinyl banners to business cards, an extra £300 a month.

It’s very disgusting,” Glascock said. “It’s another tax I have to pay [just to] Delivery around the corner. I will have to pass this cost on [to customers]. ”

The Ulez rules are based on how much nitrogen oxide a car emits, and affect gasoline cars and trucks with engines that meet so-called Euro 3 emissions standards, which were sold until about 2006. It also affects diesel vehicles with engines compliant with Euro 5 standards, which were sold until around 2015.

Dean Wilson, who runs a small funeral director in Eltham located within Ols and has vehicles that comply with their rules, nevertheless expressed concern about the potential impact on his business.

He said the “emotional side” of the tax would be magnified when families who visit his resting place three to five times before the funeral are charged multiple fees.

David Williams, who runs a musical instrument store in Eltham, said the Ulysses would hit shopkeepers who were trying to lure customers back to their premises after the coronavirus shutdown.

“The timing is awful,” he added. ‘From the shopkeeper’s point of view is a misconception.’

Others in Eltham expressed concern that low-wage caregivers who take care of vulnerable people will be hurt by the Ollys tax and can no longer do their jobs.

The Small Business Consortium, a lobbying group, has called for the Ulysses expansion to be delayed while the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, and has demanded a new scrap scheme that covers trucks and vans to help with the cost of vehicle replacement.

Conservatives in the Greater London Authority have called for the Ulysses expansion to be delayed until next year.

But Transport for London, the mayor’s transport body that operates Ulez, said polluted air contributed to thousands of deaths in the capital each year, and highlighted how that pollution has fallen by half in the city center since 2019.

The authority estimated that more than 80 per cent of vehicles within the extended Ulysses would not conflict with its rules, but it is expected that 100,000 cars, 35,000 trucks and 3,000 trucks could be hit with the daily tax of £12.50 from Monday.

Ulez appears to have increased the public backlash against diesel cars that can be traced back to the Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2015.

The number of diesel cars on Greater London roads has fallen 15 per cent since the Olz was first announced in 2017, six times the rest of the UK, according to the Clean Cities Campaign, a coalition of NGOs.

At the Volkswagen dealership in Hampstead, which will fall under the expanded Ulez, more than half of inquiries now relate to electric vehicles, while three out of 10 cars sold on site run on battery. The rest is gasoline.

“We haven’t sold diesel engines in over two years,” said Paul Tanner, president of Alan Day, the site’s selling group.

Khan helps less affluent Londoners get rid of their polluting cars through a £61m scrapping scheme.

He said the London air reform required a “bold action”, as he encouraged drivers inside the expanded Ulez to take a last-minute check to see if their cars complied with its rules.

“More Londoners across the city will enjoy the benefits of clean, healthy air,” he added.

Environmental groups and many residents agree, and Khan has faced calls to expand Ulez to include all of London’s boroughs.

Jemima Hartshorne, founder of Mums for Lungs, a clean air group, said the Ulez expansion was “absolutely necessary”. “But we’re not close to saying that air pollution will be sorted out,” she added.



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