To give anyone a tax cut (which is what it is) in these straitened times seems rash. Although it was a manifesto commitment, Boris could quite understandably have pleaded poverty. London will lose £50M+/year from this.
Who are the winners here? People who drive in West London. Of course there are some people who don't have a choice and have to drive, but there are plenty of others who are contributing to the congestion, pollution and road danger problem who are getting rewarded with a tax cut. That's perverse.
There's a couple of other lower-profile changes. The central zone will have an increased charge of £10/day, or £9 if you auto-pay. There's also a 'free pass' for Euro-V-compliant vehicles that emit less than 100g/km of CO2. Both of these changes should worry people. There already was an exemption for alternative-fuel cars including hybrids such as the Toyota Prius. This change brings a much wider choice of mainstream vehicles into the exemption. Vehicles such as:
- VW Polo 1.2 TDI 75PS BlueMotion
- VW Golf 1.6 TDI 105PS BlueMotion
- Seat Leon 1.6 CR TDI 105PS Ecomotive
- Ford Fiesta 1.6 Duratorq (95PS)
- Citroen C3 1.6HDi 90hp Airdream+
Now this is likely to cause two changes:
- a significant number of existing commuters choosing an exempt model, thus depriving TfL of revenue;
- new commuters choosing an exempt model so they can commute 'for free'.
If the new 'Band A/Euro-V' discount replaces the existing 'alternative fuel' discount, then there will be some offset because the existing discount allows some relatively polluting vehicles such as hybrid and LPG-fuelled 4x4 SUVs to avoid the congestion charge.
On balance, however, these announcements add up to a perfect storm for London in terms of reduced revenue, increased congestion, increased pollution and increased road danger. Just in time for the Oympics. Nice work, Boris.