The Mayor of London’s move to reintroduce road user charges from today (Monday 18 May) has come under fire from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), which says now is not the time to levy fines on drivers and businesses.
Although both the Congestion Charge and ULEZ were suspended on 23 March to help key workers, a £1.6bn bail-out package from the Government means they are now back in force along with the Low Emission Zone. The Mayor has also confirmed today that from 22 June, the Congestion Charge penalties for non-compliant vehicles entering the city will be increased by 30% to £15 a day while the hours of operation are being extended.
Sadiq Khan has said that the move is to help fill Transport for London’s (TfL’s) financial black hole created by the coronavirus and TfL has pointed out that both the Congestion Charge and ULEZ schemes reduce congestion and pollution and help tackle the climate and air quality emergencies.
Khan also pointed out that the Congestion Charge reimbursement scheme has been temporarily extended to continue to support NHS, care home employees and London Ambulance Service staff for journeys relating to coronavirus, including for their journeys to and from work.
However, BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney has said the timing is the issue.
“Both central government and local authorities across the UK are currently digging deep to support businesses through this crisis. Now is not the time to hit people with extra costs at short notice,” he explained.
“The Government is looking to industry to kickstart the economy and the decision to reintroduce and increase charges to drivers and fleet operators risks stifling businesses who are doing their best to keep on with the important job of transporting people and goods across the capital.
“We would have preferred to have seen a continuation in the suspension of charges to give businesses more time to get on their feet. More notice would have also been welcomed as this will hit commercial vehicle operators particularly hard.”
It’s a point that’s already been made by the Government and local authorities with this year’s planned launch of Clean Air Zones deferred to 2021, intended to give businesses time to recover, while Scotland’s Low Emission Zones have also been put on hold under the same rationale.
Gerry Keaney also highlighted how BVRLA rental and leasing members can help provide Clean Air Zone-compliant vehicles to those who do not want to use public transport and cannot walk or cycle to work in the capital.
Transport for London has also confirmed that it’s stepping up public transport service levels as national restrictions on movement are carefully and gradually lifted.
The transport body stressed that Londoners should avoid public transport wherever possible and people who cannot work from home are asked to walk or cycle using the existing and extensive new cycling lanes and widened pavements.
People who have no choice but to use public transport should wear face coverings and avoid the busiest times (between 05:45-08:15 and 16:00-17:30) and locations. It’s published the 20 busiest stations at http://content.tfl.gov.uk/busiest-stations-restart.pdf to help people avoid known hotspots.