By BethPH Last edited 103 months ago


Richmond council have unveiled a new means of extracting money from London's motorists - Oyster-style pay-as-you-go for emissions. And that's on top of normal parking charges.

The scheme, due to be launched on 1 October, has been unsurprisingly lauded by the council as 'welcomed by most people' but condemned by motoring organisations as 'money-grabbing' and 'unreasonable' though it does at least provide an opportunity for trotting out the ever-irritating and misleading 'gas-guzzling' phrase.

Richmond council claim they're not out to make money, but the £800,000 estimated additional income from the scheme will presumably not be donated to charity. And it's not just the Chelsea tractors which will be affected - some family cars will fall foul of Richmond's emissions banding.

London boroughs are quick to hit motorists with extra costs under the guise of being green, with the Low Emission Zone being the daddy of them all - although Boris Johnson postponed the third phase of the LEZ earlier this year in the name of the credit crunch and finding more inclusive ways to cut emissions instead of the time-honoured method of extractions via the motorist's wallet to demonstrate a tick in the environmental checkbox.

It's a shame that more London boroughs don't take the mayor's lead and implement schemes which treat roads as spaces shared by public transport, cars, pedestrians and cyclists instead of consistently trying to improve the lot of one at the expense of the others. Image by Siobhán.W in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Last Updated 08 September 2009


I think it depends how you look at it. Some commentators believe in a hierarchy of transport uses, because arguably a bus with 30 people in is better than, say, 20 extra cars on the road, because the cars will take up more space, causing more congestion, and cause more pollution. This was the philosophy under the Livingstone era, which was why there was a lot of effort made to help bus / cycle traffic, and the hierarchy was used to inform decisions where an action would bring benefit to one transport mode but to the detriment of the other.

Under Johnston, Kulveer Ranger has got rid of this hierarchy in order to adopt a more 'equitable' approach whereby every transport mode is treated equally. I can certainly see the libertarian arguments for this - but the fact of the matter is the unfortunately we don't have the luxury of masses of road space and clean air that can absorb loads of pollutants - so whilst I agree with the libertarian principles, alas there does need to be some way to manage congestion on our at-capacity roads, and manage pollution in a city which regularly breaks guideline limits in many boroughs. The only way to really do this is to incentivise some modes of transport over others - I would love to see electric vehicles for all as you suggest, but the reality is that it isn't going to happen today, tomorrow, or even the next few years, and a solution is needed *now* - so really, I can see sense in Richmond's approach as it disincentivises the use of polluting vehicles.

That being said, the least Richmond could to is to plough funds raised from this into EV charging points and such.


From reading this post alone you'd think that the sole purpose of this scheme is to levy an increased charge on those driving large, thirsty cars.

In fact, anyone driving a car with a reasonably small or efficient engine (less than 2,000cc for cars registered before 2001, under 186g/km after) will pay *less* than the standard rate - either 25% less or, for very efficient cars, 50% less.

Quelle horreur. Discounts for efficient cars? We must alert the Queen and Jeremy Clarkson post-haste lest this neo-enviro-marxist conspiracy spreads.

A little balance next time, please?


As far as I can tell, the purpose of the scheme is in fact to levy an increased charge on larger cars. Furthermore, it's not a congestion charge in the same way as the £8 one, but appears to be an additional parking charge which doesn't make sense when a car isn't being used, as the AA's Paul Watters points out in the article I have linked to.

Granted, smaller ones get a discount but as markle points out, it would be ideal for the money to be used to improve other forms of transport too. The scheme also clobbers visitors to Richmond by charging them the top rate unless they buy the PAYG card in advance (opening up a whole other debate about use of personal data) which seems pretty cynical and opportunistic.

I'm wholeheartedly behind public transport and cycling in London, but I believe that if people need to be able to drive for some reason then they shouldn't be penalised for doing so when a car is just as valid a form of transport as anything else.


Beth - you've completely misunderstood the LEZ there, too. It only affects commercial vehicles, so isn't some quelle horreur 'tax on the poor innocent motorist', it's a tax on businesses who want to use the most polluting commercial vehicles in the capital (and, in any case, is two whole revisions of the Euro emissions standards behind London's buses and thus one that all modern commercial vehicles are well able to meet anyway. It's also not a revenue earner, the dirty vehicles are just banned outright and if you flout the ban you get fined).

Richmond's parking permit changes are clearly designed to encourage Richmond residents to buy smaller, more fuel efficient, less polluting cars by means of incentives via the CPZ permit system. This is precisely the same aim as differential banding in car tax and fuel duty, although the latter has the added advantage of taxing use rather than ownership.

In short, I don't think you've done a great job of representing this rather progressive policy - the 'some family cars are affected' line is straight from Tory Motor Central and a modicum of research reveals that the Band L/M 'family cars' hit by the top end charge of £300 annually are not the kind of thing bought by Mr. and Mrs. Average (as an example, only three of the very lovely Jaguar XF model range - 3.0L, 4.2L, 5.0L petrol engined - would get caught in the top band, while no Mondeos, Octavias or similar mid-range saloons get near it, nor do most diesel models of even big executive cars). I'm not sure 'small rise in parking charges for a few people who want to live in a city and who can afford £30k+ motors but don't want a diesel' is such a horrific step into barbarism as you make out. They're called 'gas guzzlers' for precisely accurate reasons, too.

At the bottom end, £50 a year for parking something like a Fiat 500 is a bit of a bargain. That's a good car for city driving, after all.

Personally, as a west London car owner currently not living in a CPZ, I'd be happier, should one be introduced by Hounslow, if it had differential banding based on emissions - it would actually suggest a progressive environmental scheme rather than a money grab. Mind you, I live near enough to the A4/M4 to see and smell what car-generated poor air quality does to my environment, so perhaps I'm biased. The only flaw in it is that it's not just CO2 that matters, it's particulates and similar, and there diesel cars are definitely contributing to poor air quality, but that's a whole different issue.


There are certainly several flaws in the scheme - although the AA's "switched off" car argument is hilariously wide of the mark - but here's the key thing:

This scheme will negatively affect the X% of car owners who park in the area and have a car with high emission levels. It'll also positively affect (in price terms - let alone the green aspects for a minute) the other (100-X)% of motorists.

You've only mentioned the former aspect, as it fits your belief that this is some kind of evil money grab, and completely omitted the latter to better make the case. This does your readers a disservice.

Also, for what it's worth, the LEZ doesn't affect cars or motorcycles at all, only vans and larger freight vehicles..


First thing: "but appears to be an additional parking charge which doesn't make sense when a car isn't being used" - really? The purpose of the scheme is make parking more expensive and therefore to discourage people from making the journey - that's the bit where the pollution is reduced. I would also hazard that the kind of households that own the most polluting vehicles, typically costing 30k +, are probably not one-car households in *many* circumstances, so the move may encourage them to downshift to their smaller vehicle, if they have one. I would grant you that it could seem unequal to penalise solely people parking *in* Richmond but not those travelling through it, but I would hazard that this scheme costs far less to implement and run than a full-blown congestion charging operation, but the scheme is better than nothing, and also doesn't penalise people who have to drive to work.

OK, having gone back to the horse's mouth - a couple of positive bits that may have been overlooked:

- The scheme can also be run from mobile phones, rather than having one of the pre-loaded cards. You can register phones for free and I would suggest that it's probably less faff too.

- To help local businesses, Richmond have introduced low-cost 20-minute parking for 20p, at any time for any vehicle, and low-cost Thursday afternoon parking at £1.50 for 3.5 hours, again for any vehicle. So the council are making some concessions to support local business.

- The basic concept is that the basic parking charges go up a little, but 70% of drivers (based on vehicle type) are eligible for discounts which will mean that the net effect is equal to no price change, or a price reduction. Not too shabby I think.


Excellent comments everyone.

I'm glad I don't drive. I don't think I'm intelligent enough to keep track of all these different initiatives and methods of payment.


Surely this can only be a money grabbing exercise unless the additional monies raised are ploughed back into environmental or public transport improvement iniatives?

The scheme would seem to affect all cars with a CO2 output of 181 g/km or greater, which certainly does include many Mondeo sized cars with an engine size of 1.8 litres or greater; which I would think is a fairly typical family car and not your cliched 'gas-guzzler' or £30k+ vehicle. I also cannot see how a charge applied to a parked car can have any effect on local pollution or congestion as by definition, the parked vehicle cannot be causing either of the above. Please also bear in mind that this scheme does not allow for visitors who have not register for the pay-as-you-go card and so even the least polluting visiting vehicle would get charged the same rate as the most polluting.

Local air quality is affected far more by diesel buses, taxis and other large commercial vehicles due to the high levels of particulate and NOx emmissions from diesel engines, which this scheme does not address in any way but then neither does the current international communties' fixation with CO2 emisions. Even looking at this from a CO2 perspective, a bus must be carrying an average of 9 passengers at all times to emit less CO2 per passenger per km than an average car. Indeed the London Underground fares only slightly better than average car usage at 93 g/km per passenger.


looks like the Richmond Council is Americanizing their highways. Come to the U.S. Every road we travel we are tolled and taxed to death. The emissions requirements for cars and trucks are a great idea...don't get me wrong...however it is just another way to build up the coffers of the politically connected to finance their agendas....think I'm the math.


"Local air quality is affected far more by diesel buses, taxis and other large commercial vehicles due to the high levels of particulate and NOx emmissions from diesel engines,"

Out of date - in case you hadn't noticed, diesel cars have become enormously popular in recent years, bus emissions have been tackled by increasing Euro emissions standards, particulate traps and of course hybrids, which exist on at least one route in Richmond. HGVs are tackled by the LEZ, an if extended this would apply to vans, so there's no getting away from the fact that private motor car owners have to shoulder some of the burden for reducing the impact of using fossil fuels for transport.

"The scheme would seem to affect all cars with a CO2 output of 181 g/km or greater"

There isn't a band boundary at 181g/km, unless you're reading a different set of documents to me. There's a 165 and a 185.

"Indeed the London Underground fares only slightly better than average car usage at 93 g/km per passenger."

That's very misleading, since that's the figure for the *whole organisation*, about 2/3 of which is the traction electricity for the trains. Therefore in actual direct comparison for actually moving people about LU emits about 62 g/km. This is extremely good and shows why electric trains are the best option for mass mobility in cities.