Sadiq Khan legally committed himself to exploring pay-per-mile

Sadiq Khan insists he has ruled out pay-per-mile
Sadiq Khan insists he has ruled out pay-per-mile - Leon Neal/Getty

Sadiq Khan is committed to exploring a pay-per-mile scheme for drivers, a legally binding document suggests.

In his official transport strategy, which has a formal legal status, the Mayor says Transport for London (TfL) would “investigate proposals for the next generation of road user charging”.

Since the Mayor has had opportunities to update his transport strategy and to remove any policies he does not wish to pursue, the Tories have claimed that his failure to do so is evidence he remains wedded to exploring pay-per-mile.

Mr Khan has firmly rejected the claims and insisted that he has “ruled out pay-per-mile”.

His transport strategy, originally published in 2018 and subsequently revised in 2022, says: “The Mayor, through TfL, will investigate proposals for the next generation of road-user charging systems.

“These could replace schemes such as the Congestion Charge, Low Emission Zone and Ultra Low Emission Zone [Ulez].”

The document says that “more sophisticated road user charging” could achieve policies in the strategy relating to “mode share, road danger reduction and environmental objectives, and to help reduce congestion on the road network and support efficient traffic movement”.

“In doing so, the Mayor will consider the appropriate technology for any future schemes, and the potential for a future scheme that reflects distance, time, emissions, road danger and other factors in an integrated way,” it says.

Could replace existing schemes

In further explanatory text, it adds that “an integrated ‘per mile’ charge could replace pre-existing schemes… with a single, unified scheme which takes into account both congestion and emissions objectives”.

In February, The Telegraph revealed that TfL was working on a scheme – Project Detroit – to create a “more sophisticated… new core technology platform for road-user charging”, with £21 million spent on the project to date.

But with Labour still bearing the brunt of criticism for the expansion of Ulez, Mr Khan has repeatedly insisted that per-mile charging of drivers will not be introduced on his watch.

However, the Tories have said that such denials can only be given weight if the Mayor formally revises his strategy.

The transport strategy is a document that is legally mandated by the Greater London Authority Act 1999. The legislation states that the Mayor must “prepare and publish” a transport strategy that contains their policies for “safe, integrated, efficient and economic” transport.

The Act also says that “where the Mayor revises the transport strategy he shall publish it as revised”.

In November 2022, Mr Khan was required to amend the strategy in order to allow him to expand Ulez to Greater London.

With the London Assembly having powers to reject the strategy – or any revisions to it – by a two-thirds majority, Mr Khan told Assembly members at the time that he needed “a revision to the policy foundation in the Mayor’s transport strategy to give permission at a future date to widen the Ulezs”.

‘Dodgy lawyer tricks’

Susan Hall, who is Mr Khan’s Conservative opponent in the mayoral race, said that if he was serious about ruling out pay-per-mile he would revise the strategy, with the Tories willing to lend support in the Assembly.

Instead, she said he had relied on non-binding statements to the media, as well as a letter sent to the TfL commissioner, Andy Lord, in which he said his plans for tackling air pollution “will not include a new pay-per-mile road user charging scheme or amending the standards for the Ulez scheme”.

Ms Hall said: “Sadiq Khan has been completely disingenuous in his denials, given he has refused the opportunity to remove pay-per-mile from his legally binding transport strategy.

“We can expect more of these dodgy lawyer tricks from Sadiq Khan if he gets another four years, acting innocent with Londoners while forcing TfL by law to continue pursuing pay-per-mile no matter what he says publicly.”

A spokesman for Mr Khan said: “This is absolute nonsense from a Tory party desperate to distract from their 14 years of failure, and is categorically untrue. Sadiq has been clear he has ruled out pay-per-mile.”

Mr Khan remains the favourite in the mayoral race. Polling by Savanta last week for the Centre for London showed that Mr Khan was on 50 per cent with Ms Hall on 26 per cent.

The Liberal Democrat candidate Rob Blackie was on 10 per cent, the Green Party candidate Zoë Garbett was on 9 per cent while Reform UK’s Howard Cox was on 2 per cent.