Transport for London (TfL) has warned that red tape and costs “must be minimised” for commercial fleets targeted with improving air quality.
The capital, which could become a blueprint for other UK pollution hotspots, is due to be the world’s first clean-air zone from September 2020.
However, the new mayor of London has drawn up proposals that could see the so-called ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) introduced a year earlier than expected, and more than double in size.
Sadiq Khan is proposing the new zone would stretch from north to south circular roads.
Under existing plans it was due to only apply to the current congestion charge zone, with drivers of non-compliant cars having to pay £12.50 per day to enter.
But Khan now wants to add an additional premium to the congestion charge for the most polluting vehicles from 2017.
“I have been elected with a clear mandate to clean-up London’s air,” he said.
“The previous mayor [Boris Johnson] was too slow on this issue and the Government has been hopelessly inactive. We need to speed up our efforts.”
Transport accounts for around 60% of nitrogen oxide (NO2) emissions in the capital, of which cars contribute 28%, vans 9%, HGVs 18% and buses and coaches 16%.
As it currently stands, London’s ULEZ will require:
•Diesel cars and small vans to be Euro 6-compliant (registered from September 1, 2015; five years old or less in 2020) and Euro 4 for petrol powertrains (registered fromJanuary1, 2006; 14 years old or less in 2020).
•Large vans and mini buses to be Euro 6-compliant for diesel engines (registered from September 1, 2016; four years old or less in 2020) and Euro 4 for petrol (registered from January 1, 2007; 13 years old or less in 2020).
•Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) to be Euro 6-compliant (registered from January 1, 2014, six years old or less in 2020).
There are already plans in place to make all new London taxis zero-emission from 2018 and to increase the number of hybrid-electric buses ahead of the introduction of the ULEZ in 2020.
TfL is currently looking at what the economic impact will be if Khan’s proposals are adopted. However, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) believes they would add substantial cost to all London businesses, and potentially put some small companies out of work altogether.
Christopher Snelling, head of national and regional policy at the FTA, said: “Freight operators and the service industry could find themselves being charged extra for their vehicles before they have had any reasonable chance to upgrade.”
If the ULEZ is introduced earlier than expected, trucks could be charged just three years after their Euro 6 standard is enforced, and vans just months after, as their Euro 6 standard does not start until this autumn.
Snelling explained: “The tipping point, where these regulations become less disruptive to business, 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 allowing all companies to upgrade.”
Hackney Council corporate fleet manager Norman Harding said that any changes introduced without sufficient time to adapt fleet replacement strategies would create a problem. “While a five-year replacement cycle for LCVs may be acceptable in most cases, this is usually too short a window for HGVs or PCVs,” he said.
Green campaigners have also called for HGVs to be banned from central London during rush hour periods, but Harding labelled any potential restriction or ban of HGVs in London as “incredibly naïve”.
“The mayor will also need to progress house building for an ever increasing population and the materials required can only be delivered by HGVs,” he said.
“Many things that we take for granted, such as shop stock, food and beverage outlets, petrol stations and much more, need to be delivered by HGV. Not much can be delivered by the use of ‘final mile’ type alternatives.”
Mike Brown, London’s transport commissioner, urged fleets to respond to the consultation, due to be launched in the next few weeks, to ensure any changes introduced are “credible and deliverable”.
He said: “Opportunities exist today for introducing ultra-low emission vehicles in many sectors. But this will be more challenging in some sectors than others.
“In the construction industry, for example, where power is needed to move those heavy vehicles and bulky loads, there is at present not quite a suitable, viable alternative to diesel engines.”
However, he said that there was a need for fleet operators to move to Euro 6-compliant engines “as quickly as possible”.