RAC Cars News


Diesel Drivers Facing City Entry Fees

By raccars Published

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After some bombastic anti-diesel rhetoric earlier this year, all went quiet on the fuel wars front for a while. However, this week motorists are once again facing potential new taxes for entering major British cities in diesel cars.

A new scheme has been planned which will see a charge of £12.50 being applied to diesel cars wishing to enter cities, including London, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton. The plan has been proposed as part of a series of pollution cutting measures and is set to be introduced in 2020.

The UK Government is under huge pressure to reduce nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution levels, which are being blamed for up to 23,500 deaths every year in Britain. Rising rates of infant respiratory illness are also being attributed to NO2 pollution, while sooty particles emitted by diesel engines are being implicated in a further 29,000 deaths annually.

But motoring and environmental organisations are objecting to the plans and are furious that so many drivers in the UK have bought diesel cars instead of petrol, after an incentive campaign by the previous Government, which pushed the idea that diesel was a cleaner fuel than petrol, because it emits less carbon dioxide (CO2). The same drivers now face being penalised for following that governmental advice, while Labour ministers who had worked on the policy have come forward and admitted they got it wrong.

While diesel cars do, indeed, produce less CO2, the earlier research did not take into account the NO2 and dangerous particles which are also produced in higher quantities by diesel engines.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has also been accused of trying to bury the news by releasing it at the same time a new Labour leader was announced on Saturday morning, knowing that press attention would be focused on the more dramatic political machinations of the Shadow Cabinet.

The new charge will apply to all older diesel cars, with only the newest and cleanest models - those which comply with 2015 European emissions standards - receiving exemption. From September 2020, any older diesel cars wishing to enter London's Ultra Low Emission Zone will be subjected to an extra £12.50 charge per day, on top of the existing £10 congestion charge. Lorries and buses will be charged £100 per day to operate within the ULEZ but military and agricultural vehicles and classic cars will be exempt. Petrol cars registered pre-2006 will also be subject to the charge.

Other major UK cities will be following the lead set by the capital, with local authorities yet to reveal details, such as prices.

The reason for the new charges is that Britain has failed to reach clean air targets set by the EU, and has been given until 21 December this year to come up with a scheme to rectify the breach. The Government was also challenged on its failure to cut NO2 levels by the Supreme Court earlier this year.

The new report outlines 43 clean air zones in the UK, of which eight will still fail to reach targets by 2020, according to scientists. As a result, the new charges are to be imposed in six major city centre areas, while parts of Wales, East Anglia and Essex are also to have measures introduced. It is hoped the new scheme will bring London within clean air requirements but parts of Essex and East Anglia are expected to lag behind.

What the report fails to mention is how motorists who bought diesel cars on Government advice are to be helped, such as introducing a scrappage scheme. Motoring and environmental organisations claim the scheme is ill thought out and inadequate.

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