Plans to extend London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) could backfire if a disagreement breaks out between Transport for London (TfL) and Outer London boroughs opposed to the measure. The expansion is due to take place from August 29 and will stretch as far out as the Surrey border.
Although TfL is the capital's public transport authority, it only owns around 5% of London's road network. The majority of the capital's roads are owned by each of the 32 borough councils and the City of London, who have the ultimate say on what appears on each of them, MyLondon reports .
In order for TfL's ULEZ expansion plans to work, it intends to put 2750 extra ANPR cameras around the expanded ULEZ boundary. However as so many of the roads the cameras are planned to go on are actually run by borough councils, it will need to rely on their permission and goodwill to install them.
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The driving zone means that any vehicle classed as "non-compliant" will have to pay a £12.50 charge per day to enter it. The aim of the scheme is to help improve the quality of air and reduce pollution.
The Conservative-run Outer London boroughs of Bexley, Croydon, Harrow and Hillingdon formally issued a joint statement in November confirming their opposition to the plans. In the borough of Harrow, TfL owns zero roads. Harrow Council leader Cllr Paul Osborn said: "Mayor Khan has ignored London's residents and businesses and pushed ahead with his vanity project. This is the wrong solution at the wrong time.
"There is no evidence that it will improve air quality but it will hit the poorest households most. This scheme will involve placing hundreds of cameras in Harrow and thousands across London, costing hundreds of millions of pounds. Harrow residents were overwhelmingly against this idea. We will join with other councils across London to make sure our residents' wishes are listened to and acted upon."
This leaves TfL and City Hall the tough challenge of convincing the opposed boroughs to let them install the cameras anyway. However - as commissioner Andy Lord pointed out - any borough which refuses to let the cameras being installed risks non-compliant vehicles rat-running through them to avoid the cameras elsewhere in the capital. This could then actually increase congestion and pollution in those boroughs, whilst decreasing in the boroughs that accepted.
Mr Lord explained: "We're confident that we can hit that date [August 29] and we don't see any significant risk to that at the moment." Deputy mayor for transport Seb Dance agreed, but warned: "The discussions we're having at the moment are based on what we think boroughs are prepared to do at the moment, and what we might need to do in the event that boroughs don't want to cooperate.
"I mean there are powers that we have but we don't want to use them. Ultimately, it's better for everyone if boroughs cooperate with us, as the vast majority are."
TfL's team is assessing the details of what legal powers can be specifically used under the Local Government Act and Greater London Authority Act. The cost of the implementation of the ULEZ expansion (communications and infrastructure) is expected to be £160million as TfL has budgeted for.
TfL has also put aside money for 'bad debt' in the event that non-compliant vehicles don't pay the fine, even though the majority of offenders do pay. The ULEZ expansion, which does not generate long-term revenue for TfL as the more people who adhere to it, the less fines are issued, should stop generating money in 2027 according to TfL's budget estimations.
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