Wardens policing Sadiq Khan’s ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) are wearing balaclavas after Blade Runners activists mocked them on social media, The Telegraph can reveal.
The Labour London mayor has rolled out mobile automatic number plate vans (ANPR) in an attempt to prevail over vigilantes determined to sabotage the green scheme.
The vans are being deployed on roads in outer London boroughs in the newly-expanded zone, where older vehicles are charged £12.50 a day.
But anti-Ulez activists have been painting over camera lenses, deflating tyres and boxing them in with larger vans or placards to stop them catching motorists.
Critics of the scheme have called it “daylight robbery” for taxpayers, with TfL paying officials undisclosed sums to operate the vans and security guards to follow behind in cars.
The Telegraph has uncovered evidence of numerous Ulez van staff wearing black coverings over their faces and dark tinted glasses while on duty.
It follows weeks of clashes being filmed for TikTok, with Blade Runners targeting van crews who then call police, run away from angry locals or engage in heated arguments.
In one video posted last week, a Blade Runner blocking a camera with a placard is shown taunting a balaclava-clad Ulez official standing outside a TfL van.
The activist asks: “How much do you get paid for doing this, the most hated job in the country?”
The official, wearing a black covering and tinted sunglasses, responds by saying: “It’s none of your business”, leading the Blade Runner to reply: “Do you want to take your glasses off to give us a little look at your eyes? You’re already on the internet mate.
“Come on, take the mask down and show the people who you are, or are you embarrassed about the job you do and you don’t want people seeing your face?”
In another video, a Blade Runner asks a balaclava-clad official why they are working for Ulez, to which he responds: “We’re not hated, we’re not actually doing it. Guilty by association, but at the end of the day when you’re self-employed you have bills to pay.”
In other videos, Ulez van staff simply wave from behind their masks and are shown retaliating by taking pictures on their mobile phones, telling the Blade Runners: “You’re taking a picture of me, so I’ll take a picture of you.”
Last week, a Ulez van crew was chased from Sunningvale Avenue in Biggin Hill, south-east London, by angry residents.
Ulez expansion is ‘daylight robbery’
In response to The Telegraph’s findings, Susan Hall, the Conservatives’ candidate for next year’s mayoral election, said: “Sadiq Khan’s Ulez expansion is a daylight robbery, so it is no wonder TfL staff have donned balaclavas to enforce it.
“His Ulez expansion does next to nothing to improve air quality, but it hits the poorest hardest. That is why as Mayor, I will stop it on day one.”
The latest clashes come after anti-Ulez protestors flocked to Mr Khan’s house in Tooting, south-west London, last weekend to set up tents and show placards labelling him “a liar”.
Since the Ulez zone was expanded to all London boroughs last month, a scrappage scheme has been in place to get rid of non-compliant vehicles, but critics say it does not go far enough for poorer areas.
TfL told The Telegraph that Ulez van staff are allowed to wear face coverings if they feel threatened but are not actively being advised to, and are also allowed to wear sunglasses, hats and use their phones.
A TfL spokesman said: “Unfortunately, our contractors have been subjected to threats and abuse while carrying out their duties so they are advised to record any issues on mobile phones to deescalate conflict and if necessary, record evidence for police investigations.
“It is due to the unacceptable criminal abuse and intimidating behaviour against them that these contractors have worn face coverings. TfL is working with the police to catch those responsible for vandalism and criminal activity relating to Ulez and arrests have been made.”