The Freight Transport Association is delighted that Transport for London is announcing measures to reward the operators of Euro 5 vehicles with a reduction in the congestion charge.
In a consultation paper released today (Friday 10 August) TfL sets out proposals to change the way that congestion charges will be calculated that are based on emissions. For cars this will mean a hefty increase for the largest vehicles, whilst low CO2 emitting vehicles will continue to receive discounts. For commercial operators the basic charge will remain at £8 but a new discount will be introduced for Euro 5 vehicles, bringing the daily rate down to £6. For vehicles already in the fleet scheme this is a £1 reduction worth £260 per year – those not in the fleet scheme will save double this amount.
Given that Euro 5 vehicles emit half the amount of NOx of a Euro 4, this discount is a highly effective way of improving air quality. Unfortunately, because of EU rules, the discount will only be available for one year for HGVs (until October 2009) – vans can enjoy a reduction until early 2012 when Euro 5 will become mandatory for all new vans.
The proposals do not currently consider the thresholds for the fleet scheme. Having successfully lobbied for the threshold to be brought down to its current level of ten vehicles, FTA says that the time is now right to reduce it further, preferably to include all commercial operators.
It should also be noted that this consultation marks the end of the road for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) vehicles. Whilst those operators currently receiving an LPG discount on the congestion charge will continue to receive a discount until 2009, new buyers will not be eligible.
Gordon Telling, FTA's Head of Policy for London, South East & East of England
said, 'Notwithstanding our long held view that commercial vehicles should not be part of the congestion charge at all, we are delighted with today's proposals. We believe that they offer the right encouragement to commercial operators whilst discouraging unnecessary use of private cars, thereby reducing congestion. We see the holding of the standard charge at £8 as an acknowledgement of the vital role that commercial operators fulfil in feeding and clothing Londoners as well as creating and maintaining the very fabric of the city itself.
'It is disappointing that the Euro 5 discount has taken so long to come to fruition – had it been implemented in late 2005 when FTA first suggested it, there would have been a significant change in vehicle buying patterns with greater uptake of Euro 4 and 5 trucks. Instead, operators chose to continue buying older technology and now face the prospect of an expensive upgrade to meet the 2012 Low Emission Zone requirements. Early introduction of Euro 4 and 5 discounts would have been far more cost effective at improving air quality than the LEZ proposals that we are now approaching.
'FTA will also be pressing for a lowering of the fleet scheme threshold. At present, the smaller operator with fewer than ten vehicles not only has to pay more – £260 per year per vehicle – but also has a significant administrative task to manage daily compliance. It would be consistent with the Mayor's support for small business to see the fleet scheme opened up to all fleets, even if it was a fleet of only a single vehicle.
'The delays in getting this far with discounts are a reflection of the long journey that TfL, and its parent the Greater London Authority, face to better integrate their many policies. On the one hand we see TfL's Freight Unit, which has made significant progress since it was set up. On the other we see a raft of policies being put forward that cynically play on the public's misconceptions about the modern logistics industry that is servicing London.
'It is high time that the freight industry was served by a London Freight Strategy supported by and integrated with all of TfL's functions and ambitions as well as those of the GLA and the London Boroughs.'
Progress in reducing emissions has been made over the last 15 years. Euro 1 represented the end of black smoke from diesel exhausts and the progress since then has continued such that 30 Euro 4 vehicles today will only emit the same particulates as one Euro 1 vehicle in 1993. Particulate level, which is the visible part of the exhaust emissions, was reduced by over 80 per cent from dark haze to achieve the Euro 3 level. They reduced by a further 80 per cent to achieve Euro 4 emission levels. Euro 5, from October 2009, will not require any further reduction in carbon monoxide or particulates but will require a 43 per cent reduction in NOx.
EU engine standards were introduced for new vehicles registered as follows:
Euro 0 – October 1991 – no limits specified
Euro 1 – October 1993 – PM limit 0.621 g/kWh, NOx 8 g/kWh
Euro 2 – October 1997 – PM 0.25, NOx 7
Euro 3 – October 2001 – PM 0.1, NOx 5
Euro 4 – October 2006 – PM 0.02, NOx 3.5
Euro 5 – October 2009 – PM 0.02, NOx 2