Ken Livingstone, who faces an election in May, admitted his proposal that will affect cars emitting more than 225g of carbon dioxide per kilometre would have little immediate impact on emissions, but said the lifestyle signal was important.
‘I have every sympathy with a hill farmer who needs an SUV to get around, but there is absolutely no justification for such cars being driven in central London,’ he said.
The 25-pound charge, whose introduction is likely to be dependent on Livingstone getting re-elected, is designed to raise €40-65 million a year, some of which will fund a cycling initiative he launched last month. But with low-CO2 cars exempt from the charge, there are fears that congestion will gradually worsen again.
Livingstone launched London’s congestion charge in 2003 and was re-elected a year later after it cut traffic levels by 15%. He has since extended it westwards, and raised it from €6.50 to €10.40.
The German car maker Porsche has launched a legal challenge against the 25-pound charge, saying it is ‘disproportionately large’.
T&E director Jos Dings said: ‘It should be up to the people of London to decide on charge levels, not a manufacturer of gas guzzling cars.’
If the high-consumption charge was good news among Europe’s environmental community, the news by the British transport minister Ruth Kelly that the UK was abandoning its proposed road charging plans – and efforts to tackle aviation emissions – came as a major disappointment.
The road charging scheme was viewed as a potentially pioneering development in Europe, but Kelly said viable technology was ‘many years down the line’.