Sadiq Khan has again denied that he is planning to introduce a “pay-per-mile” system for London drivers, saying that will not happen as long as he is mayor.
The concept of charging people based on the distance they drive is mentioned in Mr Khan’s 2018 transport strategy, in which it is suggested to potentially replace existing schemes like the Ultra low emission zone (Ulez).
In recent weeks, the mayor has said there are no plans “on the table” to introduce such a system, but on Thursday, he went further, insisting it will not come in during his mayoralty.
“As long as I am mayor, we’re not going to have pay-per-mile,” he told the London Assembly at a Mayor’s Question Time session.
He had been challenged on the issue by Conservative Assembly Member Emma Best, who pointed to Transport for London (TfL) board meeting papers from March 2022.
The papers stated: “The mayor has asked TfL to develop proposals for consolidating existing road user charging schemes into one simple and fair pay-per-mile scheme, for introduction by the end of the decade.”
The mayor told Ms Best: “We have been looking at pay per mile, as indeed the previous mayor did, as indeed the Government is, as indeed do transport authorities around the country.”
He said this was because politicians and officials are looking at new ways to raise revenues, but that it was not something he had any plans for.
Pressed on the fact that he specifically asked TfL to investigate pay-per-mile, he replied: “I often ask TfL to do stuff that I reject.
“I asked TfL to look into a [Greater London] boundary charge, which I rejected. I’ve asked TfL to look into a ‘carbon charge’ for every time somebody drives a car, which I’ve rejected. TfL have been looking for some time at driverless cars, which is not coming to a road near you any time soon.”
Ms Best then brought up a November 2022 media briefing, at which Mr Khan said he was looking at a “Singapore scheme”.
He described this as “a scheme that can treat each driver differently in relation to time you’re driving and distance you’re driving”.
After Ms Best said that the description given then “sounds very much like pay-per-mile”, Mr Khan clarified that he would not rule out changes to London’s existing road user charging systems, if they could be simplified.
“What I’m not saying we won’t do is simplify the congestion charge, the Ulez and the Lez [Low emission zone] and the tolls in the Silvertown tunnel,” said Mr Khan.
“If there’s a way of simplifying that, so rather than paying potentially four charges, you can do it one way – that’s something I’m not averse to,” he added.
Ms Best said: “I’m really surprised that you’re now rolling back on that… I will say, one of things about you I’ve always thought [is that] you stuck to your principles and Ulez as you’ve said has been a difficult decision and you’ve stuck by [it] and you’ve kept going.
“[With] this, you’ve also been quite clear about what you wanted to do, and now we’re suddenly rolling back.”
Mr Khan insisted that there was no contradiction by asking TfL to investigate the concept, but not intending to pursue it himself. “TfL advise, I decide”, he said.
He refused to rule out in future increasing or decreasing the charges attached to London’s existing road user charging systems.