Smart Motorways: What Are They & Are They Safe?

New Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, has been quick to make his mark on the capital by announcing plans to clean up the city’s air pollution problem. Mr Khan has called air pollution ‘our biggest environmental challenge’ and has unveiled plans to substantially increase the size of London’s clean air charging zone.

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) may not only come into force earlier than planned, but could also cover an area more than double the proposed size. Initially, plans were for the ULEZ to cover the congestion charge zone in central London, but it could now stretch from the north to south circular roads.

Drivers of the estimated 2.5 million vehicles in the UK which fail to meet the standards will have to pay a £12.50 charge to drive on roads in the ULEZ. The move, which is designed to incentivise drivers to use cleaner vehicles or alternative modes of transport, aims to reduce levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide produced by diesels.

The Potential Impact on UK Businesses

It’s clear Mr Khan has set out his stall and is looking to gain a few popularity points early on in his mayoral reign, but speeding through the proposals and increasing the size of the ULEZ could mean many businesses are charged before they’ve had any reasonable chance to upgrade.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) is understandably concerned that Mr Khan’s proposals could put the future of some small businesses at risk. The FTA believes the London Mayor’s plans could impact haulage firms in three ways.

1) Firstly, there’s an additional charge on top of the congestion charge expected to impact vans and lorries;
2) Then there’s the requirement for vans and lorries to pass Euro 6 emissions standards across inner London, which could come in as early as 2018;
3) Finally, lorries would have to pass Euro 6 standards across all of Greater London by as early as 2020.

The result is that many businesses could lose trade in central London and the whole of inner London. The impact will be felt by businesses across the UK, but specifically by smaller businesses based in the areas involved.

Businesses Will Need Significant Financial Help

As well as impacting businesses based in the capital, the FTA is also concerned about the effect on small businesses, not just in the haulage sector, but all those who use or rely on vans.

Speaking on behalf of the FTA, Christopher Snelling, Head of National and Regional Policy, said: “The tipping point where these regulations become less disruptive to businesses is around eight years after the Euro standard was introduced, when a third to half the fleet is compliant and the second-hand market is fully developed. This allows all companies to upgrade if needed.

“The FTA is concerned that these new proposals could see lorries charged extra just three years after the Euro 6 standard came in, and vans just months after – as their Euro 6 standard does not start until this autumn.”

As well as haulage firms and businesses in affected areas, there are also rumblings of discontent from environmentalist organisations. While Mr Khan says the issue of air quality is particularly pertinent to him because of a recent asthma diagnosis, in the same week he also cleared an obstacle to the expansion of City Airport – that will clearly add to London’s dirty air woes.

How these changes will affect the haulage industry is yet to be seen, but we’ll eagerly await further news on this and will monitor the impact it’s likely to have.

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