LEZ an Issue for London Mayoral Elections

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As haulage companies get to grips with the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ), implemented by Ken Livingstone in January, the mayor's opposition are courting votes for the London mayoral elections with mixed approaches to this controversial issue.

In January, Mayor of London Ken Livingstone introduced the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ), but opposing mayoral candidates Boris Johnson and Brian Paddick say the LEZ is far from ideal.

Said to be the biggest urban environmental control in the world, the LEZ was aimed at easing smog and related health conditions in the capital. Now, in the run up to the London mayoral elections on May 1, the Conservative and Liberal Democratic party candidates have given their views on the matter.

Whilst Conservative candidate Boris Johnson supports the LEZ but believes that it has been too 'hastily' implemented, Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick opposes the scheme altogether, citing its potential negative impact on the haulage industry.

What is the LEZ?

To enter the London Low Emission Zone, which covers most of Greater London, lorry drivers must ensure that their lorries meet the European Category Three standard for airborne pollutants. Those that do not must pay £200 a day to enter central London.

Lyall Cresswell of freight exchange Haulage Exchange says the LEZ is an extremely important issue for haulage companies. "The LEZ is affecting hundreds of haulage companies throughout the UK," he said. "It's therefore encouraging to know that these mayoral candidates are taking the issue seriously as a policy which must be considered if they are to stand a chance in the upcoming London mayoral elections."

Here is a brief run-down on what the candidates intend to do about the LEZ if they are elected to be Mayor of London in May.

Labour

Current mayor Ken Livingstone says the LEZ was introduced to cut dangerous air pollution. The Mayor believes there are still 1,000 people a year at risk of premature death due to smog, particularly those with existing lung or heart conditions.

Livingstone says seven out of 10 Londoners are worried about the air they breathe, and that this justifies the new system. He said that more than a million Londoners live in areas "with levels of air pollution that are dangerous to health, with children and older people most affected."

"That is why in January we introduced the London Low Emission Zone to reduce harmful emissions from lorries, and the most polluting coaches and buses," he said. "My manifesto pledges that if I am re-elected I will extend this zone to cover all lorries over three and a half tonnes and, in 2010, heavier vans."

The restrictions and charges currently only cover 12-tonne lorries with diesel engines, but under Livingstone's plans, buses and coaches weighing 3.5 tonnes will be included from July, and other vehicles (except for cars and motorcycles) from 2010.

Conservative

Tory London mayoral candidate Boris Johnson has said that he will review the London Low Emission Zone if he becomes mayor, and listen to what haulage companies have to say. He said: "I am behind the aims of the LEZ - but it is clear that this scheme has been hastily implemented by Livingstone."

"I pledge to re-hold a consultation on the western extension and be bound by its results. I will also review the LEZ and listen to Londoners -- including freight operators and other transport businesses."

Liberal Democrat

Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick said he opposes the scheme due to its potential negative affect on haulage companies, adding that it will only result in a tiny improvement in air quality.

"It is clear from discussions I have had with traders that his scheme may well threaten their businesses," he said.

Affect on the haulage industry

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) estimates 10,000 lorries may breach the minimum standard and businesses forced to comply with the new restrictions face extra costs.

Some haulage companies have fitted 'pollution traps' to their lorries' exhausts; others have replaced old lorries with newer ones. Both are expensive options, and the FTA believes the haulage industry is spending an estimated £100m adapting to the new system.

According to Cresswell, Livingstone's LEZ plans for the future could further threaten the existence of many haulage companies. "I think there needs to be a lot more discussion on this topic and I would like to see members of the haulage industry being consulted thoroughly in relation to any future changes," he said.

About Haulage Exchange:
With offices in London and Nottingham, Haulage Exchange (http://www.haulageexchange.co.uk) is one of the UK's leading independent freight exchanges for the 7.5 Tonne market and beyond. Its sister site, Courier Exchange, is the UK's biggest exchange for express and same day movements and is now in its ninth year of trading.

Membership of the exchange is limited to accredited transport professionals, and offers them the chance to buy and sell domestic and international road transport industry services such as full loads, backloads, return loads, freight forwarding, and road haulage.

For more information, please contact Lyall Cresswell:
Haulage Exchange
Cumberland House
80 Scrubs Lane
London
NW10 6RF
+44 (0) 870 241 1472

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Lyall Cresswell
Haulage Exchange
+44 (0) 870 241 1472
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