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T-charge: how London is cracking down on older, polluting cars

Got a car or van from before 2006? Be prepared to pay more to drive through London…

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London has an air quality problem. Or a lack thereof. The UK capital’s appalling congestion and sheer volume of journeys meant that this year, the EU-approved annual limit for pollution was breached – get this – three days into the year. In 2017, being nicknamed ‘The Big Smoke’ isn’t an ideal tourist attraction. 

With an estimated 9,000 yearly deaths caused by London’s toxic air, not to mention the amount of breathing conditions created or aggravated by particulate matter and exhaust fumes, the Mayor of London has decided to take action. Action that will cost you a tenner, if you drive a non-compliant car.

The new ‘T-charge’ (t for toxic) comes into force today. It charges drivers of vehicles that do not have a Euro IV-compliant engine (essentially any vehicle from pre-2006) an extra £10 to drive into London’s congestion charge zone, on top of the existing £11.50 congestion charge. It’s estimated the £21.50 total bill will hit around 34,000 motorists every month, and like the existing penalty, runs from 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday. Pollution on weekends doesn’t count. 

Whether or not it will reduce pollution remains to be seen, but Transport for London did report that the number of car journeys in the congestion charge zone fell 10.2 per cent between 2007 and 2013. However, due to the rise in private hire taxi use and more delivery vans and construction site lorries on London streets, congestion remained and journey times remained broadly the same. 

Criticism of the T-charge has ranged from anger that it doesn’t go far enough to discourage driving more polluting cars, to dismay it’ll hurt the wallets of poorer citizens who can’t afford newer cars. The system will be revised with a new ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’ in 2020, which will only allow the most modern (Euro 6) cars into the epicentre of the city.

So, got a Porsche 996 or an E39 BMW M5? Either fork out or walk in, if you want to go sightseeing. 

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