Opinion

Ulez expansion will leave Londoners stranded

A reader questions the methods used by the London Mayor to push through low-emission zones

Ulez sign in London

The Ulez was first introduced in 2019. (Image: Matt Brown/Flickr)

Thank you for covering the Ulez expansion. I’d like to highlight some points if I may but I’m afraid it’s lengthy as there are many aspects to consider. The vast majority of affected cars don’t qualify for the scrappage scheme so are being sold at a reduced cost well outside the zone, like up north. They are still being driven, so any emissions are just moved. Improvements in air in the original zone were already evident before its introduction, due to improvements in engine technology.

I believe, uncoincidentally, new road schemes introduced before the suggestion of Ulez expansion increase vehicle emissions, helping to justify its implementation: 20mph when engines are designed to be more efficient at, say, 30mph; LTNs where cars are forced on average three times as far around as the most direct route; narrowing or removal of carriageways for little-used cycle lanes (and removal of trees for same), traffic-light rephasing, etc, cause congestion. All increase journey times, so emissions are increased.

The four thousand early deaths constantly quoted is from a data construct in a report Mayor Khan commissioned himself at taxpayers’ expense, so he could pretty much be assured of a result in line with his agenda. Even so, it also stated that results on air quality of extending Ulez “would be negligible”. My 94-year-old father died recently from lung cancer, but he voiced he would prefer to have retained his freedom of choice and movements rather than to have lived longer with an ailment he would have had even if air was perfect.

As an asthmatic for 40 years, I check air quality daily via Defra and LAQN and it’s consistently Good/Low in Greater London. On a whim I started comparing with the Highlands of Scotland and the Lake District and was genuinely surprised to thus far always find them a degree worse than London but still Good/Low. Please check for yourself to be assured of my honesty.

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As to support for this scheme, I can’t believe a poll by an organisation with such a vested interest is going to be impartial. That would be like thinking the ‘consultation’ conducted before the decision on Ulez was conducted in an impartial manner. Few knew of its existence except the target demographics actively encouraged to take part as being likely to be pro. Questions were heavily biased so as to be impossible to qualify such as, “Do you want children to breathe clean air? Y/N” with no opportunity to say you believe they already do. When figures part way through showed it was still not going in favour of the narrative, further pro groups were targeted. When results were still not in favour despite all attempts to subvert, the Mayor took the “difficult decision” to go ahead anyway at cost of £250 million despite having previously stated he wouldn’t if there was majority against.

The Mayor condemns the vandalism of cameras, stating people should object using the correct process. Having done just that with the so-called consultation and been ignored, reaching out to MPs to be told nothing can be done, a few appear to feel they’ve been left with little choice than to take direct action. As Ghandi himself stated “civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless or corrupt”.

Cleaning up the London Underground – that is 15 times as polluted as the worst of streets with metal particles and asbestos that’s vented into the roads above – and planting more trees would have better results.

Central London has good public transport so few would choose to drive there unless they had to, and many consequently don’t needs cars. Outer London does not, so that some would need to walk two miles to the nearest bus stop. The Mayor’s claim that more die in Greater London is easily explained as it generally has a much older demographic. At one demonstration an old man sobbed his heart out as he simply can’t afford to sell his faithful diesel at a loss and buy a replacement at inflated cost, so he has no idea how he’s going to visit his wife in a care home any more. Tradesmen who can’t take a tin of paint on the bus, let alone everything else they need to work for various clients each day, are now either losing their jobs, closing their businesses or becoming uncompetitive by passing the costs on.

With two slipped discs and two pending knee replacements I can’t always walk far but, like tens of thousands in similar positions, I don’t count as disabled. Had my car not been compliant I couldn’t have afforded £25/day to go and care for my dad each day, often called out after midnight, and neither could many of his agency carers. Nurses after a late shift when public transport isn’t running still need to have a safe way of getting home. There are many and varied reasons public transport isn’t always appropriate, but rather than making it a reasonable option for as many journeys as possible by reducing fares, the Mayor is removing many routes and increasing fares at the same time as removing many people’s only option of viable travel. 

People are genuinely reaching the end of their tether with the lack of honest engagement, manipulation of statistics to suit a pre-determined agenda, arrogant bullying and name-calling with intent to discredit and constant stick, never carrot. With thousands of truly heartbreaking stories like the old man’s, where people don’t know how they will be able to visit family, etc, I genuinely think this will cost people’s lives as they feel increasingly isolated and housebound.

Thank you for bearing with me, I care deeply about this and have never before protested anything in my nearly 60 years. I should add my own car is compliant and I’m in a very fortunate position, but I can’t stand by and watch so many others pushed into poverty and misery by this without standing up to be counted.

Gillian Mantell

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