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Transport for Londons low emission zone a shambles

Mayor Livingstone and Transport for London’s plans to introduce a Low Emission Zone regarding the operation of lorries within the M25 are very seriously flawed. The plan will not improve air quality, will not detect offending vehicles, will penalise innocent vehicles, and will place very substantial and unfair costs on London industry, says the Freight Transport Association.

At its January meeting, FTA’s Greater London Freight Council, representing lorry operators in the Greater London area, said that the plan to retro-fit older vehicles with equipment designed to reduce emissions, and thus exempt them from the scheme, would not work. Extensive operations of vehicles fitted with the conversion kit had now proven that although the kit worked over longer trunking journeys, it was unsuitable for the stop/start nature of work in a city and, as such, many conversion kits have now been removed.

Similarly, as the scheme is designed at present, enforcement would not be able to identify which vehicles first registered in 2001 were fitted with Euro 3 engines and would therefore be permitted to operate, and which vehicles were fitted with Euro 2 engines and would not be permitted to operate without paying a fee of £200 or a £1000 fine. Furthermore it seems that some of the pre Euro 3 vehicles will be able to operate in London because they already meet the particulate standards without modification. If the threshold is indeed to be particulates-led, then why are the pioneers of biodiesel, whose emission levels are already within the limits, to be penalised and forced to replace or adapt their fleets?

As far as NOx is concerned, the Mayor’s strategy could not be more misguided. Whilst he lamented the inability to tackle NOx in his response to an earlier consultation, the fact is that one of the Euro 1 trucks that could be modified to comply with the proposed scheme will produce four times as much NOx as a comparable Euro 5 truck available today. That same Euro 5 truck will produce only a fifth of the particulates that are set out in the LEZ proposals.

Transport for London also seems to have no way of identifying whether any of the large number of foreign vehicles entering London every day are, or are not, up to the required standard. The prospect is that many will get away without either meeting the standard or making any payment.

And a major problem remains, with lorry operators seeking to deliver vehicles from outside the M25 into franchised dealerships or other locations within the M25 for repair or maintenance work. Will those vehicles have to pay £200 in order to reach the appropriate workshop, a further £200 for a road test and, possibly, a further £200 to leave the workshop? Or will they be obliged to seek maintenance and repair at other locations elsewhere in the country?

FTA’s Head of Policy for London and the South East, Gordon Telling said, ‘We all seek cleaner air in London and the steady introduction of new engine technology for goods vehicles will ensure that, with or without the TfL Low Emission Zone, by 2015 practically all vehicles will, in any event, be operating with engines that more than meet the required standards. In the meantime TfL plans to enforce the LEZ are nothing short of a shambles, are grossly unfair, and will not produce an air quality improvement.

‘Under the present plans it seems that many vehicles which meet the right standards will be subject to a charge or a fine, while many that fail to will not attract any charge at all.

‘And, of course, lorries are responsible for only 20 per cent of vehicle emissions in London – the biggest polluters, cars, escape the Mayor’s attention altogether! Is it a coincidence that the Mayor is facing re-election three months after the proposed introduction of the scheme?

‘FTA remains convinced that the most sensible way of enforcing any Low Emission Zone would be based on the age of the vehicle, with a strong package of incentives for cleaner trucks, rather than on some very unreliable and uncertain identification of whether its engine did or did not meet the standard required.

‘It seems that the LEZ is a virility symbol designed to trumpet the Mayor’s green credentials. Unfortunately it is the transport industry which is obliged to pay the bill for Mr Livingstone’s folly.’

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