If you’ve bought a car emitting less than 120g/km of carbon dioxide recently in the hope that you’ll be able to drive into central London without paying the Congestion Charge, you may be in for an unwelcome surprise in the New Year.According to reports in the national press today, Transport for London’s plan to reform the workings of the Congestion Charge, which were announced last November, may yet be scrapped or drastically altered.TfL’s plan was to increase the £8-a-day Congestion Charge to £25-a-day for the biggest emitters of CO2 – those in VED tax band G which produce more than 225g/km – but to waive it for any car in the zone in bands A or B, i.e. that emit less than 120g/km.Reports today suggest that, after sales of band A and B cars soared by more than a third in the first nine months of 2007, London Mayor Ken Livingstone could renege on the promise, in fear of allowing traffic levels to grow within the zone, and revenues to plummet. Deciding to junk the plans would cheat thousands of motorists out of hundreds of thousands of pounds they assumed they’d save by buying a band B car, and would fail car-makers such as Ford, VW, BMW and Hyundai who’ve already invested in sub-120g/km models in anticipation of the scheme.
"Make your mind up, Ken"
BMW UK's managing director Jim O'Donnell had this to say in reaction to the news: “Ken Livingstone’s policy of charging cars to enter central London has always been confusing because it has never been truly clear whether it is a measure to reduce pollution or congestion." "What the mayor must do is to recognise that it’s a congestion measure, apply the same charge to all cars entering London, and drop the proposed £25 charge for top-end cars which is no more than a kind of “envy” tax." “The current London plan has nothing to do with logic — beyond proving that local government should stay away from pollution measures altogether, and leave CO2 strategy to the EU, which has at least some understanding of the timescales the car industry has to work to." “I believe there’s little more we can do that will make the Mayor of London's office respond to our message. We’ve lobbied hard through the SMMT, but they’re not willing to listen." "In the end, the buyer will pay for everything. The car industry already spends more on R&D in Europe than any other industry, and it has made strong progress at cutting CO2 emissions. But it can’t work miracles."
A spokesperson for the Mayor said: "There has been no decision to drop the proposal for higher charges of £25 on the most polluting band G vehicles or for reduced or zero charges for the least polluting band A and B vehicles."Our polling shows overwhelming support for these proposals by Londoners. Transport for London is undertaking analysis of the recent consultation. Once that has been done, a decision will be announced on how it is intended to proceed."The decision is likely to be announced in the New Year.