Motorists have less than two weeks left to respond to a public consultation into proposed changes to the London congestion charge, which could see the thousands of drivers previously exempt from the charge, having to pay up.
Under the proposed changes, Transport for London (TfL) would introduce a new Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED) exemption in replace the current Greener Vehicle Discount (GVD), which would set a much stricter emissions limit of 75g/km CO2 for cars able to avoid the charge.
Replacing the current limit of 100g/km CO2 would exclude an estimated 19,000 motorists from exemption, meaning they would have to pay a daily charge of upwards of £9 to travel in the congestion zone.
Drivers of low emission diesel cars and hybrids would be among those who would be hit in the pocket by the changes.
TfL say the changes are intended to tackle the rising number of low CO2 diesel cars, which currently dodge the charge, yet emit high levels of pollutants such as NOx and soot. A Euro 4 diesel car emits about 22 times as much particulate matter as the equivalent petrol car.
Although the new ULED system remains ‘technologically neutral’, favouring no particular solution to air pollution, no diesel-only car as yet meets the new exemption criteria. This would help tackle the increasing dieselisation of London's car fleet, TfL say, where diesel car sales share of the market increase from around 10 per cent to 50 per cent in the last decade, driven in part by low carbon incentives.
The transport authority is also consulting into the idea of removing retail option of paying for the charge, following the introduction of the automated CC Autopay system. Removing the retail option would reduce running costs, with less than one in ten payments now made in shops or petrol stations, there seems little demand for this option too.
TfL is also seeking views on proposals to increase the penalty charge for the Congestion Charge from £120 to £130.
Nick Fairholme, TfL's Director for Congestion Charging, said: 'We are pleased with the number of responses we have received to the consultation so far but I want to encourage as many people as possible to submit their views on these proposed changes.
'We do listen to our customers and have made significant changes to the scheme in recent years, including the removal of the Western Extension and the introduction of Congestion Charging (CC) Auto Pay, as a result of listening to these views.'