Are we going to be charged on pay-per-drive basis?

Torbay Weekly

Travellers by car to London are in for an expensive surprise this autumn.

Starting on October 25, the congestion zone in inner London with just 170,000 population and eight square miles is expanding to the North and South Circular roads. This then will  include more than three million residents and roughly 200 square miles.

The whole zone is now being called Ultra Low Emission Zone, (ULEZ) initials which you will read and hear plenty about in the coming months.

Even residents within this newly expanded area will have to either upgrade their car if it doesn’t comply or pay the daily £12.50 charge. Needless to say, there are heavy fines for non payment.

Cars and vans must be compliant to Euro 4 for petrol and the much more stringent Euro 6 for diesel. In real terms, this means diesels manufactured after 2016 and petrol after 2006. Electric vehicles are exempt from charges.

Imagine then the cost to independent  trades people with their nice ten-year-old Transit vans, still worth a good tidy sum, being told to sell up and get a newer van costing easily around £10,000. And residents who rely on their diesel car, if older that five years, will also have to pay a daily charge or trade up.

There are no exemptions even if you live within the zone or travel for work into the zone.

So how does this affect us here in Torbay?

Well, you may have relatives and friends within this new zone who you would like to visit,  or indeed have to visit and your car may not be compliant.

Not everyone finds the train convenient especially if you need mobility during your visit. Weddings, funerals, family gatherings and excursions to the capital will need to be thought through carefully.

The only exempt day is Christmas Day and beware travelling around midnight. The charging period resets every day at midnight so you could catch a double fee if still on the road after then.

The actual North and South Circular roads themselves are outside the zone but the moment you turn towards central London, you are in the chargeable area.

The Transport for London (TFL) website has an easy to use way of seeing if your car complies or not by just entering your vehicle registration.

You will also notice the change in name from ‘congestion’ to ‘emission’ zone. This is a lot easier to sell to the public and do not be surprised if in time the whole of Greater London within the M25 orbital becomes incorporated.

The knock-on effect on used vehicle values is difficult to assess at present but I imagine any diesel vehicle over five years old is probably a hard sell in the South East.

The gradual increase in road tax exempt electric vehicles will give the Chancellor a funding  headache as the market expands and traditional road tax diminishes.

Road pricing is a consideration on motorways, as a starting point. You may have noticed these vast grey gantries spanning the A38 at the foot of Haldon Hill on the way towards Exeter. These are replicated all over the UK motorway network now.

Are they not just a bit over the top for a few road signs? Well, they can also carry speed cameras and are clearly work in process for future Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.

The Government has been planning this for a long time.

‘Surely we are not going to be charged on a pay-per-drive basis?’ I hear you say.

Well, it is already happening in London and is called ULEZ.

And other city councils are watching with great interest. Be warned.