Protests against the expansion of the Ulez in outer London have resulted in a number of enforcement cameras being stolen, it can be revealed.
Transport for London had already seen dozens of numberplate-reading cameras vandalised or covered up by people opposed to Mayor Sadiq Khan’s widening of the clean air zone to the Greater London boundary.
Now it has emerged that some protesters have climbed traffic signals to remove the cameras, which will be used to fine drivers of non-compliant vehicles £180 if they fail to pay the £12.50 daily Ulez levy.
It is thought opponents are using a Facebook group to share locations of the cameras, which TfL has refused to make public. More than 50 cameras are believed to have been damaged or removed.
Mr Khan has previously criticised some Ulez protesters for criminality, warning it was “not acceptable” to vandalise cameras and urging them to remain within the law.
Asked by the City Hall Conservatives to outline the extent of the problem, Mr Khan said there had been “31 instances of vandalism or theft to Ulez cameras within the expansion zone” by March 21.
In addition, a further 12 cameras in the existing zone — which extends to the inner boundary of the North and South Circular roads — have been vandalised or stolen, he said.
The Conservatives’ City Hall leader, Susan Hall, said: “Sadiq Khan is wrong to put up cameras and impose his Ulez tax against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of Londoners. But vandalising cameras and breaking the law is completely unacceptable.”
Last month TfL began erecting cameras in boroughs opposed to the expansion, such as Harrow and Hillingdon. TfL is planning to install 2,750 cameras across outer London to enforce the Ulez, which is due to expand on August 29.
But the start date could be delayed if the High Court finds Mr Khan acted illegally in the way he approved the expansion. A hearing is due in July after a request from five Tory councils for a judicial review was approved last week.
Mr Khan declined to reveal the cost to TfL of the thefts and vandalism due to “commercial confidentiality”.
TfL is spending between £60 million and £75 million on new cameras and road signs, and a total of £130 million to £140 million on the Ulez expansion.
A TfL spokesman confirmed a number of the new cameras – which are mostly erected on top of TfL’s traffic signals - had been stolen.
He said further incidents had been reported since the end of March but refused to give a “running commentary” on the total.
He said: “Vandalism on our network is unacceptable. All incidents are reported to the police for investigation.”
Almost 700,000 older cars registered in Greater London are thought to be liable for the charge, which typically applies to diesels made before 2015 and petrol cars made before 2005.
However TfL believes that fewer than 200,000 vehicles a day seen being driven in outer London will be liable for the charge on a regular basis.
Its latest data, for last December, shows that 94.8 per cent of all vehicles, and 95.9 per cent of cars, in the current zone were compliant – and thus did not have to pay the levy.
Of the 44,300 non-compliant vehicles spotted daily, 28,000 paid the levy, 4,300 didn’t pay and were issued with a fine and 12,000 were classed as “non chargeable”, such as community minibuses, vehicles used by disabled people or vehicles whose numberplate could not be traced.