29 Apr 19

Single road tax for London "by 2024"


By 2025, London could have as many as five different road taxes. A new report suggests a much better solution: a single, mileage-based road charge. This could reduce pollution by 20%, cut congestion and increase efficiencies for corporates.  

Since 2003, drivers into central London have faced a Congestion Charge. Earlier this month saw the start of an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) covering the same area – a double whammy that makes driving into the city unaffordable for 30% of London commuters

Green Light

On top of that may come proposed charges for the use of the Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels in the city's east. And then there's strictly local initiatives like the no-emission zone that covers a limited number of streets in the boroughs of Hackney and Islington during parts of the day. 

Add it all up, and London could have a 'patchwork' of at least five different road charges by 2025 – with varying vehicle standards, hours of operation, charge amounts and payment systems, warns 'Green Light', a report by the Centre for London. 

Instead, the think tank advises the Mayor of London (currently Siddiq Khan) to replace all current and planned schemes with a single, simple system they call 'City Move'. It would charge road users per mile, targeting areas of high demand and/or poor air quality, but also consist of a multimodal platform (website plus app) advising residents and visitors on the best mobility modes available. 

Numerous advantages

A system like City Move would have numerous advantages, the report suggests:

  • it would be fairer than either the Congestion Charge or the ULEZ, which charge drivers a flat daily rate. Because it's mileage-based, it would reflect true vehicle usage and its contribution to congestion and pollution;
  • rates, always posted before each trip, would vary according to the vehicle in question's emission levels, but also local congestion and pollution levels, and the availability of mobility alternatives; 
  • charging on the most congested roads could reduce total emissions and air pollution levels across London by up to 20% (a bigger effect than the ULEZ is projected to have);

Target investment

  • the system would also reduce congestion and make it easier to target investment at the roads most in need of upkeep. This would create efficiencies that benefit local businesses.
  • being a single system, City Move could be used as a multimodal platform integrated with the rest of London's transport system. This would allow users to check the duration and cost of their journeys against other options, such as bus, tube or train, but also carshare, taxi, (shared) bicycle or even walking;
  • not only would the platform allow users to plan, book and pay for their trip, it could also show them the various environmental costs of the options at hand, and promote the use of ridesharing and public transport options. 

"Fairer for drivers"

In its report, the Centre for London advises Mayor Khan to work with Transport for London to develop a system like City Move to be ready by 2024, the end of the next mayoral term. 

Silviya Barrett, a Research Manager at the Centre for London, calls the Congestion Charge and the ULEZ “relatively blunt systems”, and says City Move embraces the new technology that can make road charging “simpler, smarter, fairer for drivers and better for the city.” 

Surveys suggest 63% of Londoners support a simpler combination of the city's various charges tackling emissions and pollution.

Authored by: Frank Jacobs