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London could shake up road charges in bid to reduce car emissions

London could revamp its road charging system to encourage people to ditch cars as the capital looks to reach net zero emissions by the end of the decade.

Sadiq Khan, the city’s mayor, said he was considering scrapping the congestion charge and introducing a new scheme, where drivers pay per mile and face different rates based on a number of factors – including how polluting their car is.

Other changes could be introduced until this technology is ready, such as a daily charge for all but the cleanest vehicles across Greater London and a fee for cars coming into the city.

The mayor said it would only be possible to reach London’s goal of net zero by 2030 – which is 20 years before the UK’s target – by reducing transport emissions.

He said 25 per cent of the city’s carbon dioxide emissions come from road travel.

Campaign groups welcomed the new suggestions to cut the number of cars on the road, saying this would benefit both public health and the climate crisis.

It comes just days after the city was hit by a warning of high pollution, which saw at-risk groups of the population told to limit strenous activity outside.

Mr Khan said he was considering new policies to encourage motorists to switch to greener modes of transport in response to a report he commissioned, which suggested different paths London could take to get to its net zero goal.

The chosen one said London needed to cut the number of kilometres travelled by cars by more than a quarter by 2030, as well as having 2.2 million heat pumps installed and a significant drop in heat demand from buildings.

London’s mayor said a new road charging system would be needed by the end of the decade to achieve this cut in traffic emissions.

This could see the current congestion charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) abolished and a new scheme brought in, where drivers would pay per mile and have different rates depending on how polluting vehicles are, the level of congestion in the area and access to public transport.

The mayor said he was also considering policies to implement before this technology is ready, including expanding the ULEZ zone – which charges drivers of vehicles that do not comply with minumum emissions standards – to cover the whole of Greater London.

Last October, this area was expanded in a move affecting tens of thousands of motorists.

Jenny Bates from environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth said she supported proposals to cut car use.

“Pay-as-you-go driving is the way forward because it will help to reduce car travel in line with national net zero goals, raising money for affordable low carbon transport infrastructure at the same time,” she said.

“Until this becomes viable, expanding the ULEZ to cover the whole of London would make the city a better place to live and work.”

Simon Brammer from climate charity Ashden, said it was “crucial” to disincentivise driving in London “as cleaner air will dramatically improve health and save lives”.

Earlier this month, a major study found air pollution caused around 1.8 million excess deaths in cities around the world in 2019.

Mr Brammer said: “As car use declines, the funds generated should be reinvested to permanently reallocate road space to make walking, cycling and scooting the safest and most convenient way to complete local journeys.”

For longer journeys, there must be investment in public transport, he said.

London’s mayor has previously warned the city could see public transport reduced as part of a “managed decline” – including a whole tube line closed and 100 bus routes withdrawn – if it does not get more funding from the government.

The current funding deal set to expire on 4 February.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said it had already pledged £4bn to keep London’s transport running and said the mayor “had a responsibility” to get Transport for London “back onto a sustainable financial footing”.

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