Ulez-hit drivers should get 'grace period before they are fined'

Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ chaos means drivers should not have to pay fines racked up on the first day, says Transport Secretary Mark Harper after furious reaction to £12.50 levy saw protesters scuffled with police

  • The Transport Secretary has said it would ‘not be reasonable’ to impose fines 

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has urged Sadiq Khan to offer a Ulez grace period said that it is ‘not reasonable’ to enforce fines on drivers who violated the new rules yesterday as the Transport for London website where drivers could check if their car was compliant crashed. 

Yesterday, the much-hated Ulez  was expanded to all 32 boroughs of London seeing people having to pay a £12.50 daily charge to drive the most polluting vehicles around the capital. 

Outside Downing Street, there was violence at an anti-Ulez protest – with shocking scenes showing police scuffling with some of the protesters as tempers flared over the controversial expansion which is set to bring an extra £2.5 million a day to City Hall and raise billions in the coming years.

As a result of the website’s technical difficulties, drivers checking if their vehicles were compliant were forced to wait several minutes before they received clarity, causing ‘confusion’. 

Speaking to the Telegraph, Mr Harper said: ‘The Labour Mayor of London is responsible for administrating the rollout of his new charge on the poorest motorists.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has urged Sadiq Khan to offer a Ulez grace period

Khan’s Ulez dream got off to a troubled start yesterday with violence in the streets 

Police officers restrain a protest outside Downing Street during a Ulez demonstration yesterday

Demonstrators hold signs saying ‘Stop the toxic air lie’ and ‘stop the Ulez’ outside Downing Street

‘With the Transport for London [TfL] website crashing and causing confusion on the ground, it’s not reasonable for Sadiq Khan to punish people by fining them for being caught up in that confusion, and he at least should be considering grace periods.’

READ MORE: ULEZ protesters scuffle with police as tension boils over

In this instance, the ‘grace period’ would mean no fines were issued in Ulez zones on the first day of the expansion. 

Prior to the crash, the Transport for London (TfL) number plate checker website slowed to a crawl under the sheer number of people trying to see if their cars are non-compliant. 

Those wanting to check if they would have to pay the Ulez fee were put in an online ‘waiting room’ where they had to wait for their chance to get onto the website.

Khan’s Ulez dream had got off to a troubled start before yesterday as dozens of cameras designed to catch non-compliant vehicles were vandalised.

Protesters against the scheme have damaged and destroyed cameras across London by spraying them with paint, covering the lenses, cutting wires and even demolishing the poles they stand on.

In Bromley more than a dozen cameras were vandalised before the expansion came into effect at midnight, while residents living in Chessington welcomed the CCTV installed on their street being taken out of action by vigilantes.

How the Ultra Low Emission Zone has expanded across London throughout the years

Nearly nine out of 10 Ulez cameras have been vandalised in southeast London , according to an analysis of crowd-sourced data

The Mayor of London has insisted he is not ‘anti-car’ for implementing the expansion, which means people will have to pay £12.50 a day to drive certain vehicles into the city.

These include diesel vehicles from 2014 or earlier, petrol vehicles from 2006 or earlier and motorcycles from 2001 or earlier, although vehicles from 1973 or earlier are exempt.

The move, which Mr Khan says will help battle pollution in the capital, will bring an extra £2.5million a day into City Hall and is set to raise billions in the coming years.

Tories have branded the policy a ‘money-raising exercise’ with Transport Secretary Mark Harper saying he would have blocked it if he had the power.

The expansion it has been vociferously fought against by charities, Tory councils and residents in outer London. 

The mayor has even resisted pressure from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to delay it amid the cost of living crisis.  

Speaking earlier this month, Sir Keir stressed there are ‘other ways’ of cutting pollution as he was grilled about the controversial policy on a visit to Scotland.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer put pressure on Sadiq Khan to delay Ulez amid the cost of living crisis

Local resistance to the scheme has been fierce in some areas of London with signs installed beneath cameras to warn drivers

The controversial scheme now covers all London boroughs and will force drivers of non-compliant vehicles to shell out £12.50 a day

New Ulez signs have been put up on the M4 near Heathrow Airport to warn drivers they’re about to enter the zone

Commenting on the policy, Sir Keir said: ‘Let me tell you what I want to change: I want clean air.

READ MORE: ULEZ backlash: ‘Mr Loophole’ reveals how London drivers will have grounds to challenge fines

‘I don’t think anybody in this country should be breathing dirty air, any more than I think they should be drinking dirty water.

‘What I don’t want is schemes that disproportionately impact on people in the middle of the cost-of-living crisis, so we need to look at options for achieving what we all need to achieve, which is clean air.

‘There are other ways of achieving this, so my driving principle is clean air, absolutely yes, but a proportionate way of getting there and looking at what the options are for other cities, other places doing it in different ways.’

The policy has also faced opposition from areas close to the capital with six out of the seven local authorities immediately bordering London have refused to sign a legal agreement with Transport for London (TfL) to allow Ulez signs within their borders.

The act of protest has been mounted by Surrey County Council, Kent County Council, Essex County Council, Hertfordshire Council, Buckinghamshire Council and Thurrock Council, which are Tory-led and have been vocal about the financial impact Ulez will have on its residents.

The only council that signed an agreement was Slough Borough Council, which shares the smallest border with London and only has two signs installed, the Daily Telegraph reported. 

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