‘Three-rings charge for London roads could help Ulez expansion’

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Researchers have suggested a pricing system for drivers akin to the Tube zones (PA Wire)
Researchers have suggested a pricing system for drivers akin to the Tube zones (PA Wire)

Sadiq Khan should adopt a ‘three ring’ road-charging system when he expands the ultra-low emission zone across Greater London, experts say.

The Mayor has pledged to extend the Ulez from the inner boundaries of the north and south circular roads across all 33 boroughs by May 2024.

Researchers at the business lobby group London First, which helped to devise the congestion charge, have suggested he adopts a concentric zonal pricing system for drivers, akin to the Tube zones.

It proposes axing the C-charge and replacing it with an identical £15-a-day levy to enter central London, a £2.50-a-day levy for the “inner ring” up to the current Ulez boundary and a £1.55-a-day charge — equal to a bus fare — to drive in the outer ring, roughly between the A406/A205 and M25 motorway.

The inner and outer zone charges would raise about £400 million a year which could be reinvested in public transport and road repairs under a “new contract” with drivers.

London First said a zonal system would be easy to understand, quick to introduce and could vary in cost depending on each vehicle’s emissions. Lower charges in the suburbs would reflect the comparative lack of public transport alternatives in outer London.

Drivers crossing all three boundaries would have to pay each levy. But motorists who need to drive daily, such as small businesses, could have their costs “capped” akin to daily and weekly limits on regular Tube and bus travel.

The intervention comes before a consultation on the Ulez expansion that is expected to start at the end of next month.

Mr Khan’s longer-term aim is for London to become the first world city to introduce a pay-per-mile system of road-user charging by the end of the decade, but there are concerns this could face political setbacks, highlighting the need for an effective interim solution.

Adam Tyndall, programme director for transport at London First, said the research paper was a “starting point for discussions”.

Mr Tyndall said: “This builds on the infrastructure that already exists. The idea is to build a simple, understandable system that people can trust.

“Ulez is fantastic for tackling air quality but it doesn’t address congestion or how we need more investment in the transport network, and could be redundant in five years.

“The Mayor’s vision of rolling the [C-charge and Ulez] into a single distance-based scheme is great but this would be a way of doing that sooner.

“There is going to be a big conversation over the next year and beyond. This is our contribution to that.”

The research warned that the switch to electric vehicles would help with pollution but “do nothing” to solve gridlock.

It said: “A system of zonal charges and price caps might not be the perfect solution... but if it were to be effective and deal with the objections around cost, complexity, privacy and fairness it might be the best solution.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Khan said: “TfL will shortly be consulting on proposals to extend the Ulez London-wide. TfL welcomes any views that will help inform this process.”

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