On October 23rd 2017, Transport for London introduced a daily T-Charge (toxicity charge) for older, more polluting vehicles. If your car doesn't meet the pollution standards, you'll need to pay a £10 daily T-charge in addition to the regular London Congestion Charge.
It's part of a drive to clean up London's air, which Transport for London claims is already 'dangerously' polluted. In particular, it's designed to tackle NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) and particulate emissions (diesels).
If you live and work in London, you'll know about the T-Charge already. If you're an occasional visitor, however, it might have passed you buy – so here's your chance to find out what it means, and what you need to do about it.
Does your car qualify? The T-Charge compliance checker
So the first thing to check is whether your care complies with T-Charge pollution standards. You won't have to pay if your vehicle meets the Euro 4/IV standard for petrol and diesel vehicles, or the Euro 3 standard for motorised tricycles and quadricycles (trikes and quad-bikes in modern English).
Not surprisingly, that's not something many of us can quote off the top of our heads, but there is an easier way – simply visit Transport for London's emissions surcharge checker page and type in your vehicle's registration.
As long as your car is no more than 10 or 15 years old and registered in the UK you should get your answer in moments. We asked around the office, checked a few of our more recent cars, for example a 2006 Citroen C4, 2012 DS3, 2012 Nissan Note, and they were fine.
Older vehicles of the sort new drivers and students might be able to afford, are a different story, however, so our 2004 Fiesta 1.3 failed to qualify and would be eligible for the T-Charge.
Are there any exemptions from the London T-charge?
We're glad you asked. Retro-fit emissions control equipment on older vehicles is acceptable, but subject to approval by the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS).
But if you own a 'modern classic' that's 40 years old or more, then you don't need to worry – technically, vehicles with a historic tax class (40 years and older) and/or commercial vehicles manufactured before 1973. These are exempt from the T-Charge, though you will still have to pay the Congestion Charge (yes, we're coming to that).
Other exceptions, quoted directly from the Transport for London site, are:
- Vehicles that are parked all day in an on-street parking bay and displaying a valid resident's parking permit will not be charged for that day.
- Motorcycles, mopeds and scooters that are exempt from the Congestion Charge are also exempt from the T-Charge.
- Two-wheeled motorbikes (and sidecars) and mopeds that are exempt from the Congestion Charge
- Taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) are exempt from paying the Congestion Charge and the T-Charge when actively licensed with TfL. The exemption for PHVs only applies to private hire bookings.
- Emergency service vehicles, such as ambulances and fire engines, which have a taxation class of 'ambulance' or 'fire engine' on the date of travel
- NHS vehicles exempt from vehicle excise duty, and Ministry of Defence vehicles
- Roadside recovery vehicles and accredited breakdown vehicles registered for a 100% discount from the Congestion Charge
- Specialist off-road vehicles such as tractors and mobile cranes (that are exempt from Low Emission Zone)
What does the London T-charge cost?
The standard T-Charge is £10 per day, and this is in addition to the regular London Congestion Charge of £11.50 per day. The T-Charge operates in the same area as the Congestion Charge Zone and during the same time periods, i.e. 07:00-18:00, Monday to Friday.
With the Congestion Charge the price changes according to whether you use Auto Pay (£10.50 per day) or pay the day after (£14), but the T-Charge is a flat £10.
If you are eligible for a Congestion Charge discount, however, you should get the same discount on your T-Charge, though this doesn't include the 9+ seater discount or buses, which are still subject to the T-Charge if not the Congestion Charge.
So how do you pay the London T-charge?
The arrangements are the same as for paying the Congestion Charge and you can do this online, paying both at the same time. Remember, the Congestion Charge is lower if you pay before you travel rather than afterwards, and cheapest of all if you're a regular visitor and you use Auto Pay.
The legal onus is on you to check your travel arrangements and route to see if you pass through the Congestion Charge zone and to pay up if you do. Ignorance or confusion are no defence in the eyes of the law.
What happens if you don't pay the T-charge?
It's not the occasional bobby on a bicycle that you need to worry about, but the legions of ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) cameras strewn across our capital city's streets, including – we're told – the entry points for for the Congestion Charge Zone. It's a simple matter for the cameras to identify your car from its registration, and the owner, and its liability for the T-Charge too.
If you don't pay up beforehand or the very next day, you will be sent a Congestion Charging PCN (Penalty Charge Notice). This comes with a £130 fine payable within 28 days, though this is reduced to £65 if you pay within 14 days.
If you don't pay within 28 days you'll be hit with a £195 charge certificate, and if you don't pay that you face action from enforcement agencies and bailiffs and a possible guest appearance on a show like 'Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away!' (Channel 5 and now Netflix – it's not pretty!)
So are we all done with anti-pollution measures now?
Not really, sorry. The T-Charge is only the first step towards the introduction of the the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), a 24-hour charging zone in central London for older vehicles, which comes into force on 8 April 2019. From what we've seen so far, the emission regulations will be the same, but this is a full-time scheme rather than the part-time Congestion/T-Charge scheme currently in operation.
Good luck everyone, and welcome to the future.