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Motorists in London could be charged by the mile under new plans to meet net zero targets.

Sadiq Khan, the capital’s mayor, is considering a new road pricing policy to encourage drivers of diesel and petrol cars to switch to electric vehicles or to use public transport instead.

It comes as research commissioned by Mr Khan found that in order to meet net zero ambitions, the capital needs a 27 per cent reduction in car traffic by 2030.

Mr Khan said that he is “not willing to stand by and wait when there’s more we can do in London that could make a big difference”.

“We have too often seen measures to tackle air pollution and the climate emergency delayed around the world because it’s viewed as being too hard or politically inconvenient, but I’m not willing to put off action we have the ability to implement here in London.

“I’m determined that we continue to be doers, not delayers – not only to protect Londoners’ health right now, but for the sake of future generations to come.”

The report said that drivers would be subject to a “simple and fair scheme” that would replace existing fees such as the Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez). 

London’s emission zone expansion (ULEZ)

Industry figures said that the Government will also have to consider a road pricing scheme to help make up for the expected loss of fuel duty tax when the country transitions to electric vehicles.

The sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned from 2030, which will leave a £37 billion hole in the public finances. The Treasury has made it clear that new taxes will be necessary in coming years to replace the loss of fuel duty but the Government has so far shied away from introducing road pricing as an alternative.

The City Hall report stressed that the technology to charge drivers per mile is “still years away from being ready”, so the Mayor is considering several alternatives which “could be ready within the next few years”.

“One approach is for the Ulez to be extended beyond the North and South Circular Roads to cover the whole of London.”

Existing charge levels and emissions standards could be maintained, the report said, or a small fee could be charged for all but the cleanest vehicles.

‘Punitive’ measures add to cost of living

Nicholas Lyes, the head of roads policy at RAC, said that the measures would be especially punitive to drivers who cannot afford to purchase an electric vehicle at a time when the cost of living is soaring.

“We all want to see cleaner air and cleaner vehicles on the road and it’s right the Mayor has ambitions to reduce emissions from road transport but these proposals could be beyond the means of many and will punish those who simply cannot afford an electric car,” he said.

“Worse still, proposals to charge vehicles outside of London to enter the boundary is likely to impact hardest on workers such as carers, tradespeople and night-time economy staff for whom there is no alternative to using a vehicle.”

The mayor commissioned Element Energy, a consultancy, to set out scenarios for cutting London’s carbon emissions to zero overall.

The most ambitious proposals require £75 billion in infrastructure investment between now and 2030 and the taxpayer will have to foot a large part of the bill. Mr Khan said that the proposals will require central government funding.

His concerns were echoed by Edmund King, the president of the AA, who said “charging vehicles off the road” was not the solution to cutting pollution, adding: “We need to encourage the uptake of cleaner, greener vehicles.”

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