Of almost a million non-compliance penalties issued since the zone’s introduction, more than 330,000 have never been settled. One-third of all Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) fines issued in London are left unpaid, according to a freedom of information (FOI) response from Transport For London (TfL).
Some 982,145 non-compliance penalties have been issued since the zone was introduced in the capital in April 2019, but 336,637 of these remain unpaid, according to data received through a FOI request from former Greater London Council councillor Richard Town.
Drivers can be fined if they own a non-compliant vehicle but do not pay the daily charge of £12.50 within 24 hours. Fines are raised to £15 after 72 hours, followed by a £130 PCN, which is reduced to £65 if paid within 14 days.
In response to this information going public, Paul Cowperthwaite, TfL’s general manager of road user charging, contacted Autocar to emphasise TfL’s commitment to securing the missing payments. “The Ultra Low Emission Zone helps keep the most polluting vehicles off the roads and compliance is consistently high, at around 87 per cent, with fewer than one per cent of those entering the zone going on to receive a PCN,” he said.
“There are many reasons a PCN may remain open, including the customer contacting us to query the PCN, non-payment of notices and the debt recovery process. The coronavirus pandemic has also had an impact, with the initial suspension of the scheme and associated impacts to the recovery of any PCNs, and we have allowed people more time to pay fines and interact with us given the impacts the pandemic has caused for many.
“We want to make clear however that those with non-compliant vehicles who do not pay the ULEZ charge will still be fined, and we remind drivers to check their vehicle ahead of the expansion of the zone to the North and South Circular roads next month.”
London’s ULEZ will extend to the North and South Circular roads on 25 October this year, with the addition of 400 cameras at an equipment cost of £130 million, a sum that’s prompted some to argue the expansion should be halted in favour of other air-cleaning methods.
But Richard Town, who submitted the FOI request to TfL, said the substantial proportion of fines left unpaid shows the system should be refined before it is expanded: “The figures show there’s already widespread disregard for TfL’s enforcement. The scheme’s expansion must be halted.
“The excellent work that the original inner-London schemes have already achieved in cleaning up London’s air risk being lost as more and more of London’s motorists are forced to find more and more ingenious ways of avoiding paying TfL’s fines.
“The mayor must recognise that previous inner-London schemes have brought clean-air results. A further expansion into London’s leafy clean-air suburbs won’t.”
Drivers can contest a PCN if they believe it has been issued erroneously, although few charges are cancelled this way, with only four fines binned due to vehicles falling into an ‘exempt’ category due to their historic status. It is currently up to drivers to pre-register their vehicles for exemption prior to entering the zone.
“The recipient of a PCN has the legal right to challenge the PCN if they believe it has been issued incorrectly. Where applicable, we may ask for further evidence to support the challenge,” said Sara Thomas of the FOI case management team at TfL.
“To date, we have cancelled 4 PCNs under the category ‘Exempt – Historic Vehicle’. The PCNs were cancelled because the recipients in each case were able to satisfy us that their vehicles met the criteria for this exemption.”
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