Photo: Chris Sampson/CC
Photo: Chris Sampson/CC

John Viner, West London Socialist Party

In London, 29 August is fast approaching. The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (Ulez) is due to be expanded to cover the whole of the capital.

Those with non-compliant cars will have to pay a £12.50 daily charge if they wish to keep, or cannot afford to replace, their ageing vehicle. There’s a £100-a-day charge for non-compliant lorries, buses and coaches.

As far back as 2007, Transport for London (TfL) estimated that there were 1,000 premature deaths, and a further 1,000 hospital admissions, annually, due to poor air quality from all causes.

Gases produced by car exhausts have a detrimental effect on our airways, and can exacerbate existing conditions, such as asthma and bronchitis. Diesel vehicles, in particular, even more modern ‘cleaner’ versions, are particularly problematic.

Tragically, nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah died in 2013 from a severe asthma attack. It was directly attributed to the illegally high levels of air pollution in Lewisham, south London, where she lived with her family. Ella was the first person in the world to have air pollution listed as a cause of death.

But London’s Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, is expanding Ulez at the same time as attacking public transport. He’s not serious about tackling pollution and traffic.

Khan is in a battle with Unite the Union with his plan to reduce London bus provision by 4%. He is also coming after jobs and pensions on the tube. One of the reasons transport union RMT is striking on London Underground from 23 to 28 July.

And we know we can’t trust the Tories either. Tory central government agreed the dodgy deal with Sadiq Khan to cut London transport.

Many workers rely on their vehicles for work, particularly for early shifts, or where public transport isn’t available. The cost-of-living crisis compounds this.

The Competition and Markets Authority found that supermarkets made an extra £900 million by overcharging drivers for fuel in 2022 alone. There are also those who, like my late father, felt they can’t use public transport, due to risk of infection in a crowded bus or train.

The hypocrisy of some Tories’ opposition to Ulez is evident in that it was the Tories who originally introduced it. The Socialist Party calls for a democratically planned, massively expanded, free-to-use, publicly owned transport system, as part of an overall plan to tackle both the cost of living and environmental pollution.