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Vehicles with highest emissions will pay central London 'T-Charge'

Daily £10 Toxicity Charge will be added to £11.50 Congestion Charge

Patrick McDonnell & Mark Moran
23 October 2017
The Mayor of London has commissioned a series of adverts to raise awareness of the reasons behind introducing the Toxicity Charge
The Mayor of London has commissioned a series of adverts to raise awareness of the reasons behind introducing the Toxicity Charge


A £10 emissions surcharge came into force in central London today, 23 October. The Toxicity Charge, also dubbed the T-Charge, applies to cars, vans, minibuses, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) that do not meet minimum standards. The charge will be in addition to the £11.50 Congestion Charge.

Petrol vehicles that do not meet Euro 4 standards and diesel vehicles that do not meet Euro 6 standards will have to pay a ULEZ daily fee (£12.50 for cars, vans and motorbikes; £100 for buses, coaches and HGVs).

TfL is using a camera-based mechanism for enforcement of the T-Charge, monitoring both diesel and petrol vehicles.

If the vehicle does not meet the minimum exhaust emission standards - Euro 4/IV for both petrol and diesel vehicles - and the T-Charge is not paid, a £130 penalty charge notice (PCN) will be issued, reduced to £65 if paid within 14 days. 

Some vehicles (excluding cars and motorbikes) currently need to meet the Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) to drive within Greater London without paying a daily charge.

Air pollution is one of the most significant challenges facing London, says the Mayor of London. The T-Charge seeks to significantly help improve air quality in London, in particular with regard to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter, both of which have an adverse effect on human health.

“The shameful scale of the public health crisis London faces, with thousands of premature deaths caused by air pollution, must be addressed,” said Mayor Khan. “Today marks a major milestone in this journey with the introduction of the T-Charge to encourage motorists to ditch polluting, harmful vehicles. London now has the world’s toughest emission standard with older more polluting vehicles paying up to £21.50 a day to drive in the centre of the city. The T-Charge is a stepping stone to the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, which could be introduced as early as 2019.

“This is the time to stand up and join the battle to clear the toxic air we are forced to breathe. I am transforming our bus fleet, getting rid of the oldest polluting taxis and creating healthier streets that will leave a lasting legacy for our children. But I can’t do this alone. I urgently need government to step up and face their responsibilities by delivering a diesel scrappage fund and a Cleaner Air Act that is fit for purpose. I also need Londoners to work with me so we can phase out the use of the dirtiest polluting vehicles from our roads.“

Gareth Powell, Transport for London’s director of strategy, said: “We are moving quickly on multiple fronts to improve air quality in the Capital. The T-Charge shows that London is leading the way with the toughest pollution standard of any world city, which will be further strengthened with the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone. We are encouraged that people appear to be heeding these initiatives and finding more environmentally friendly ways to travel.  This is the bedrock on which the Mayor’s ambitious plan for a zero emission city by 2050 is built.”

The T-Charge is the first step towards the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which will initially operate within the same area as the Congestion Charging zone from April 2019, when tighter vehicle emissions standards will be required. It is intended that the borders of the ULEZ will expand to cover nearly all of London.

Since the T-Charge was announced in February, TfL monitoring data indicates that the daily number of older more polluting vehicles driving into the Congestion Zone has decreased by about 15%. TfL now expects that the T-Charge will result in a further drop, with around 40% of motorists upgrading their vehicles and around 10% switching to alternatives like public transport in the first year.

The Mayor of London has launched an online Cleaner Vehicle Checker to provide with a way of knowing whether a vehicle is performing as intended when driven in ‘real world’ conditions.

Reactions to the T-Charge

The London Assembly has called for more to be done to tackle London’s poor air quality. Leonie Cooper, chair of the environment committee, 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. 

“The Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will take effect in 2019 and exemption from that will require the Euro 6 standard for diesels. Raising awareness of this and discouraging the use of diesel vehicles in favour of much cleaner alternatives should be top of the agenda. So should complementary measures to help shift the transportation habits of Londoners towards cheaper alternatives such as buses or trains and healthier options such as walking and cycling. ‎We'd also like the government to step up and introduce a diesel scrappage scheme to help move things forward quickly."

Shaun Bailey, Conservative environment spokesman at the London Assembly, said: “As an asthmatic I'm well aware of how critical an issue this is for London but we need policies that actually deliver progress. 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.”

Reaction from health organisations and campaigns has been positive. Professor Stephen Holgate from the Royal College of Physicians welcomed the T-Charge. “We now know that air pollution has a substantial impact on many chronic long-term conditions, increasing strokes and heart attacks in susceptible individuals,” he said. “The implementation of the T-Charge is a positive step towards cleaning up London’s air and it is showing to the world that it is possible to change behaviours in order to reduce the harms from high polluting vehicles. Such actions will improve the air quality in our capital and in time will save lives.”

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “The T-Charge is an important step from the Mayor of London to deter our most polluting and harmful vehicles from entering Central London. We know toxic air can have a devastating impact on our health. This is why we look forward to seeing the Mayor go further and launch the Ultra-Low Emission Zone. However, if we are ever going to properly tackle air pollution the government must commit to a fair and ambitious new Clean Air Act.”

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Dangerous levels of air pollution in London are damaging the heart health of the public – both healthy individuals and especially those with heart disease. There is an urgent need to protect Londoners from inhaling toxic air – particularly from small particles in diesel fumes which our research shows increases the risk of potentially fatal heart attacks and strokes.” 

Environmental campaigns have also been broadly positive about the new charge.

The environmental law practice ClientEarth welcomed the T-Charge, but wants the mayor to do more. ClientEarth spokesman Simon Alcock said: "We welcome the mayor showing significant ambition to improve London’s air quality so early on in his term and are supportive of many of his proposals. However, he needs to go further and faster to meet his legal and moral obligations to protect the people of London from harmful air pollution. We urge him to seize this opportunity to put London on the path towards a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable future. We look forward to the next round of consultation, where we hope to see the full details of a significantly more ambitious Ultra Low Emission Zone proposal.”

ClientEarth thinks the mayor should go further in three key areas:

  • With air pollution causing over 9,000 early deaths in London each year the mayor needs to go further on the Ultra Low Emission Zone and extend it to Greater London as many pollution hotspots are outside the North/South circular. He should consider implementing the ULEZ earlier, either in 2018 or the beginning of 2019. And he should make the Congestion Charge Zone zero emission for each class of vehicle as soon as technically feasible.
  • The mayor should extend the T-Charge (for the most polluting vehicles) to all diesel cars. He should also consider including all diesel vehicles if an analysis shows this would meet compliance with legal air pollution limits in the shortest time possible.
  • A vehicle accreditation or consumer labelling system should be introduced to ensure that any Euro 6 diesel vehicles that are allowed to enter London under the T-Charge or ULEZ actually meet the required emission standard when driving on the road.

Rosie Rogers, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “It’s just not possible to clean up London’s air without cleaning up London’s roads, and that’s why we support the Mayor’s first steps to tackle air pollution by introducing the T-charge. London now joins Paris, Copenhagen and many other progressive cities in taking urgent steps towards removing polluting diesel cars from their streets. The ball is now in the court of our national government to grasp the urgency of the crisis and take more meaningful action to reduce the illegal levels of air pollution seriously harming people’s health across the UK.”  

Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates said: “Clearly the last thing individuals want is a new charge for moving around, but the grim reality is that nearly 10,000 early deaths are caused in London each year by the capital’s toxic air, so the Mayor is right to try to dissuade drivers bringing the oldest, dirtiest vehicles into central London. It’s only one small step towards clean air though – we urgently need a programme of meaningful financial assistance to help drivers of the dirtiest vehicles switch to something cleaner, and bold policies to cut traffic over all. The upcoming Ultra Low Emissions Zone 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.”

Steve Chambers, policy and research coordinator, Living Streets, said: “The T-charge only covers Central London but lethal air pollution affects every Londoner and every London neighbourhood – action needs to be much more widespread. Motorised traffic is the biggest source of air pollution and so the focus has to be reducing car use. We need comprehensive road pricing covering all of Greater London now.”

The Mayor launched the T-Charge during a visited the University College London (UCL) Day Nursery in Bloomsbury, which is situated off a busy road in Gower Street. The nursery have installed a ‘pollution room’ where children can play indoors on days with high or very high pollution. The room is used to help young children struggling with asthma or breathing difficulties made worse by toxic air. Recent research by Aether showed 438 London schools and 27 nurseries were situated in areas exceeding legal air quality.

Richard Jackson, director of sustainability for UCL Estates, said: “UCL is committed to helping to tackle air pollution and to create an environment for London in which children, students and staff breathe cleaner, healthier air. As a London-based university with a successful, popular nursery, we share the concern and attention he is giving this issue. We believe the T-Charge could be a significant move in helping to improve the air quality in London. This supports our own commitment to improve air quality and safeguard our UCL and wider London community.”

Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers, said: “Industry recognises the air quality challenge and wants to see London and other cities meet their targets. Investment made by the industry into new diesel and petrol technologies has resulted in the most recent cars being unaffected by this new charge in London and, indeed, exempt from any other charges across the UK. This new T-Charge will affect a very small number of older vehicles so the impact on air quality will be marginal whereas bigger improvements could be achieved by policies which incentivise the uptake of the latest, lowest emission vehicles.”

Sue Terpilowski, from the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The introduction of the T-Charge comes at a time when small and micro-businesses in London are already facing astonishingly high property, employment and logistics costs. There is a fear that this will be the final straw that closes businesses and takes jobs."

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