/ Motoring, Sustainability

Your views: Will the T-Charge address London’s pollution?

London traffic

London’s T-Charge is now in force. Set to affect up to 34,000 drivers a month, the levy is designed to tackle the dangerously high levels of pollution in the capital, but what have you made of it?

Drivers of older vehicles on central London streets are now required to ensure their cars, vans, lorries and motorcycles meet minimum Euro emission standards or face a daily charge.

This T-Charge, known officially as the Emissions Surcharge, is in addition to the already established Congestion Charge and will operate in the same zone in a bid to clean up the city’s hazardous levels of air pollution.

We asked you what your thoughts are on this new levy and it started a really great discussion, which we saw echoed in The Lobby as well.

The T-Charge

Many agreed we should be tackling the number of cars in our cities, but question if this is the best way to do it. Wavechange was happy to see pollution levels being challenged:

‘I welcome any move that will cut down the number of cars in cities but I don’t think it’s right that those that have the money can pay to pollute.’

While malcolm r also questioned who this charge will have the biggest effect on:

‘It has been pointed out that small traders with older vehicles, poorer people who cannot afford to change cars, are examples of those affected. Discriminating by the ability to pay seems wrong – and maybe just a way to raise money… The basic solution is clear – limit the number of vehicles. But not by charging. Simply bar vehicles from entering at certain times, except for essential ones. Provide means to access public transport out of the congestion area, and run a decent service. But it requires more than short-term thinking, so it won’t happen.’

Alternative ways to reduce pollution

It wasn’t long before the community began to question how else we could reduce pollution. Duncan made a fair comparison between London and Edinburgh:

‘Edinburgh City Council has just announced it will (after consultation) be imposing a £40 yearly levy on its diesel car owners for parking in the city – (Glasgow Herald). It’s part of their Parking Action Plan to ‘enhance the quality of life’. This will affect those who park outside their home as well. It will be a surcharge on existing parking permits, the highest being £475/year.’

While bishbut highlighted the need for better public transport:

‘If all cities and towns had an efficient, cheapish public transport system there would be no excuse for anyone driving their cars into town. To me, it is only stupid people who have must drive to work every day to sit in traffic jams and cause more pollution by doing so.’

Alfa made the observation that it’s not just car pollution London is affected by, but also air pollution:

‘Winds generally go in an easterly direction. With several busy motorways including the largest car park in the world, planes and traffic jams around Heathrow all spewing out pollutants, raising the toxicity charge is going to make little difference to air quality. When London is so polluted, you have to ask why they would build a third runway at Heathrow. If those in government really want to lower pollution, start working on creating a new London airport on the east side of the city.’

What do our experts say?

We asked our Which? Car expert Adrian Porter about the T-Charge and pollution:

‘Air pollution doesn’t just affect London. In my last article on emissions (April 2017), we featured a woman who lives in Southend who suffers real problems on days with high air pollution.

‘And as part of the UK Air Quality Plan published in July this year, local authorities are having the onus put on them to make use of a range of measure to reduce air pollution from vehicles, which can include changing road layouts at congestion and air pollution pinch points, encouraging people to buy electric vehicles, retrofitting buses to give lower emissions, investing in new low-emission buses and generally encouraging the use of public transport.

‘But if these measures fail, local authorities could introduce restrictions, such as charging zones or stopping certain cars from using designated roads at set times.

‘Local councils have until March 2018 to submit their plans, so we could potentially see more congestion charge zones popping up around the country in the future.’

What do you want your local council to do to tackle air pollution? Are you doing anything to reduce the amount of pollution you pump into the air? Will your next car be a hybrid or even electric?


The island state of Singapore is known for forward thinking and this article on cars could equally well apply to parts of the UK.

” Statistics from The Economist show that a vehicle spends only 5 per cent of its time on the road. This means that on average, a vehicle lay idle for 23 hours a day. Autonomous vehicles will disrupt the traditional model of car ownership. Multiple owners might end up sharing one car, or car ownership will move more towards on-demand and short-term ownership models instead.”

There are other interesting snippets of information. Unfortunately missing are bicycles which may reflect who paid for the article.

We should not be allowed to get away with polluting simply by paying more to drive our inefficient vehicles in a congested area. It is pollution we need to tackle head on by reducing what causes it – too many petrol and diesel vehicles. Simply raising revenue from the wealthier drivers is no answer.

I would restrict access to non-essential vehicles, certainly at peak times. However, this would mean providing alternative convenient access to a town or city; decent public transport, electric bikes and electric cars from park and rides for example.

Disabled, maybe concessionary passes for those who cannot access public transport easily. It is not a short-term fix of course. I’d hope that at parts of the day the restricted access could be relaxed when there is no congestion.Delivery vehicles could be restricted to these times.

Not sure I entirely agree with the sentiment that “simply raising revenue from the wealthier drivers is no answer.”. It depends on how much you raise it, surely? But the simple fact is that “Modern diesel cars produce 10 times more toxic air pollution than heavy trucks and buses”, so that tends to support the idea of limiting vehicular access at certain times.

But Alfa’s observation is, I think, the most relevant: prevailing winds in the UK are SW, so Heathrow’s toxicity is being blown across the capital almost every day.

It will take a leap of almost unimaginable courage, but at some point I suspect that all petrol and diesel vehicles will have to be banned, perhaps monorails introduced to deal with short stop transport needs and something done about airports generally.

We surely want to reduce pollution, not allow drivers to continue polluting but charge them money for the privilege?

I agree, of course. I was simply wondering about how high the charge would have to get to force them to change engine type…

The problem with this whole debate is that the proverbial cart before the horse applies. Unless there is an efficient and cheap public transport system people who have to drive through or into London will be forced to use their cars. Other large towns should provide park and ride facilities. Town planners should refuse planning permission for large
new home developments unless adequate parking is provided on the outskirts together with plenty of plug-in facilities for electric cars.
Having been persuaded to opt for diesel cars it is not realistic to expect diesel vehicle owners to change to electric overnight!

As a cyclist I fully support this action 🙂

So, those who wish to carry something heavy into town will not be able to do so. Those living in town will not be able to have their cars there as well. Those that shop and place articles in the car to shop some more, can not do so. Those that shop in the afternoon and visit the cinema or theatre in the evening will have to carry their shopping with them. In town, car parks will be empty and so will the towns if public transport has to cope with everyone wishing to enter and leave, using it. The public will see towns as no go areas because it is so much hassle getting in and out, especially when driving from other areas to get there. While pollution is, indeed, a problem and thinning out traffic in town the only way to cure it, the social repercussions also need to be thought through, especially as most of us look for the easy option and can’t be bothered to jump the hurdles placed in the way. The T charge is a wonderful cash cow for cash stripped councils, especially as it can be put at a punitive rate in the righteous cause of public health. The sad thing is, that this appears to be the only way of thinning the traffic even though current public transport is often inconvenient and it is hard to have to cart goods around on it all day, especially in bad weather. There is no guarantee that the infrastructure will improve to compensate for the restrictions imposed on the motorists. In addition some of my recent town journeys have been a nightmare due to roadworks, temporary lanes and illogical one way systems where one finds oneself being taken away from the destination and wondering how to get back. So the car is being driven out anyway. By all means stick a T tax on older vehicles (not that old either) and sit back and watch what happens. I am willing to bet that not everything will go according to plan. I wouldn’t want to be a city centre hotel owner without a car park.

I understand the points, Vynor, but I did suggest restrictions at the normally-congested times when pollution is worst. Those who live in town could be encouraged to have electric or hybrid cars that would not be restricted. Shops could be encouraged to deliver to park and ride collection points, maybe collectively. Yes, it will require thought, developing alternatives, but if we do nothing other than collect money from polluters, I don’t see it going anywhere.

Restrict ALL transport in London to either horse drawn vehicles or bicycles and teach people how to walk again as some have forgotten they once could and even did

Thinking about some of the points you make, Vynor, I suspect that if traffic were to be almost permanently banned from – say, London’s city centre, then it would probably merely accelerate the trend towards the larger shops already offering home delivery, while new delivery companies might well spring up to service multiple smaller outlets, so I’m unsure how much shopping in person would be damaged by the restrictions. It could actually work the other way around, by encouraging more people into the centre, because they would know it could be a far more pleasant shopping experience in general.

The point about parking at the hotel, however, is an interesting one. The nearest large town to us is Llandudno, which is based almost entirely on tourism. Since the town and almost all the hotels were built in the 19thC there’s very little in the way of parking at all. But it barely impacts on the thriving tourism. I do accept, however, that things would be different in a city centre, where many business users would need accommodation.

Just on a historical note horses were a major problem in 19th Century cities in terms of horseshi and inconveniently dying in the roadways.

Bicycles vould be made very convenient if they were given entire roads. In Holland they do have a range of pedal powered vehicles for deliveries, families and shopping. Density of parking cycles would be much higher than vehicles and with adequate truly secure parking it could be a cheap option.

I should also mention that rain ponchos for cycle riders and even canopies are all possible. The use of electric powerpacks may allow for pedal-taxis tobe an economic option. Logically cheaper than cars.

Which? last reviewd cycles in 2007 I think. The consumer charities in France . Holland and Germany, all with similar climates to the UK, review frequently particularly given the arrival of electric bikes.

” 27% of all trips in the Netherlands are taken by bike, but the safe, continuous, convenient bike routes used by all kinds of people for everyday journeys – and which made my Dutch experience such a relaxing one. “

Holland is rather flatter than much of the UK. Some people would struggle. Maybe electric bikes or trikes with an awning?

You are right about pre-petrol transport days. I don’t remember, but am told that with huge numbers of short-lived horses. pollution and disease were rife in many cities – piles of horsh, thousands of gallons of urine, cubic kilometres of methane, and the dead…… Flies to spread disease……plus all the smoking coal fires from overcrowded housing and factories. Those dying of breathing problems in our big towns and cities have never had it so good 🙁


Restrict polluting traffic at peak times to cut down one source of pollution.

The vehicles in London are diesel taxis and gas guzzlers. I suggest that you pay 1p per cc of your engine size. ie About £69 for AMG Mercedes or Bently

I would not want to go into London these days it appears to be a terrible place to live or work .I enjoyed visiting in the sixties but now will stay as far as possible from the sordid dump

Much as we’d miss you, I’d go back to the stix, Alex 🙂 Why put up with the pollution? Or you could start a campaign for Which? to move out of Marylebone and find a nice country location. Why should most of them have to be in London? The CEO has opted out – follow my leader.

While I don’t approve of paying to pollute, the T-Charge will help raise awareness of the pollution problem.

One of the reasons people like to take their cars into city centres rather than use public transport is to cope with taking bulky and heavy goods home. Perhaps we should repurpose city centres for social activities, concerts, art galleries, museums, theatres and anything that does need goods coming in on lorries and taken away in cars. Much has been said about electric buses but there is also a need for electric taxis.

The maker of the London black cab has unveiled the new, electric design of the car, which will hit the capital’s roads in November and which it hopes to sell to pollution-blighted cities worldwide.

Known as the London Taxi Company since 1948, the firm will rebrand as the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) to export the new model, which runs for about 70 miles off a battery before switching to a petrol engine for up to 400 miles.

Chris Gubbey, the chief executive of the firm, which was bought by Chinese automotive giant Geely in 2013, said he expected older diesel models would soon face a ban from politicians and regulators concerned about air quality.

They also propose a small electric van for local deliveries.

I think regular electric public transport is a better bet for most. Taxis usually take single passengers and are not cheap to hire.

I agree about using electric public transport rather than taxis, Malcolm. I know some people who are reluctant to take a bus, but free bus passes have helped change their minds.

Taxis are useful for disabled people, who may be unsteady on their feet. They are ideal for those who have to transport a wheelchair or scooter.

I believe I posted last year that when looking at pollution in the capital one report stated that 50% of the pollution was derived from brakes and tyres. Reducing engine emissions is not perhaps the solution people think it is.

That pollution is such a problem in the UK is that society is not being informed of the various forms of pollution resulting from our leap ing into new products and then eventually realising that there are problems rather than getting proof of safety first before releasing onto the market. Microbeads are an almost unbelievable example of human stupidity – something even the governments and consumer charities were slow to consider.

I have always found that I feel physically dirty when travelling into London – which unfortunately I will have to do next week. Why the AGM is not moved around the UK so more ordinary members can be involved escapes me.

AGM – Devon might be nice and convenient for a few? 🙂 Perhaps Bristol outskirts more sensible.
On emissions, I wonder how much CO₂ and NOx pollution is cause by gas and oil-fired heating boilers, particularly older gas versions?

Bristol would be fine : ) As would other cities such as Cardiff, Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh etc.

Amazingly despite the cry that the majority live in the South East only just over 100 turn up each year. Someone was sufficiently aggrieved to travel from the Lake District to complain about the obscene pay last year or the year before.

I suspect if the AGM was in their neck of the woods every few year members might be more likely to attend. The question is will Council ever recruit more OM’s or let the shareholders “die” out.

In which case who complains about the excessive salaries and other failings? Anyway hopefully the new Council will put forward some decent action plans.


Patrick, this is off-topic. Can you please add any off-topic comments to The Lobby – that’s what it’s there for 🙂 thanks

“Will the T-Charge address London’s pollution?”

You’re asking for an opinion as to whether it will, or not?

Actual measurements will prove whether it does or doesn’t.