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Mayor Ken's Low Emission Zone - a load of hot air?

Motorist surveillance goes orbital

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Extending the camera zone

TfL, characteristically, has not mentioned privacy at all, if there are to be camera based systems at many locations across the LEZ, the system must by definition capture the VRM (number plate) of all vehicles passing it - whether or not they are required to pay any congestion or pollution charges. Of course, the system may then discard the data for all vehicles that are exempt from the charge.

TfL also mentions that it may consider including the sections of the M1, M4, M11, and A3113 that are within the M25 in the LEZ; currently doing so would require the approval of the Secretary of State. However, that may not necessarily be needed as at some point very soon a Transport Bill will be presented to Parliament which will enable councils to introduce road charging on a "trial basis".

To avoid over-complicating matters by involving other councils, the LEZ will cover the 33 Greater London boroughs, which is not quite the whole M25 area. But depending on the pervasiveness of the monitoring equipment it could potentially form an "instant" extended charge zone, or maybe just a snooping and surveillance one.

As to the costs of the Low Emission Zone, if a transport company has no choice but to buy new vehicles or pay the charge, then it logically follows that significant elements of this will be passed on ultimately to consumers - you and me. Unless we happen to be driving a foreign registered vehicle.

So there will certainly be less pollution in the Greater London Area - which is clearly good news, as a former cyclist in Central London I certainly welcome it.

But with barely a mention of it in Ken's gleaming press releases, we will be in a situation where every vehicle can be tracked and traced - and I don't recall seeing that in any manifesto, or recall Londoners being given the option to vote on it. Remember, once the system is in, there is no turning back, or getting away from it.

Of course, it is possible that TfL is either not aware of the issues - or has hoped no one will notice. ®

Jason Scrutton was the risk manager for the contractor who delivered the London Congestion Charging project, and currently assists his clients with stakeholder engagement and congestion management. Until recently, he regularly used to cycle from east to west London.

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