The ‘T-charge’ shows how London is leading the way in tackling congestion and pollution

Eugh: London traffic. Image: Getty.

With the government’s March 2018 deadline for places to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide fast-approaching, there is much that UK cities can learn from London’s steps to address pollution – in particular, the recent introduction of the new ‘Toxicity Charge’ (or T charge) on 23 October.

The new charge is part of a long line of measures put in place by the capital to address two of the biggest costs of its economic success: congestion and air pollution. London has some of the highest levels of pollution in the UK, which contribute towards shortening the lives of Londoners by between nine and sixteen months, and kill thousands of people every year. Over the past 15 years, the city has taken a number of steps to tackle these problems:

  • In 2003, it introduced the London congestion charge zone, which remains as one of the largest of its kind in the world. This aims to reduce vehicle usage in central areas of the city, and to raise investment funds for London’s transport system.
  • The low emission zone was introduced in 2008, which exempts low emission vehicles from the congestion charge area – meaning that only vehicles that do not conform to higher emission standards are subject to the charge.
  • London has introduced low emission buses on some routes, and around 5,000 buses are set to be upgraded to meet the latest ultra-low Euro 6 emissions standard, cutting pollution caused by buses by up to 95 per cent.
  • The new T-charge aims to build on these measures by placing an emission surcharge for the most polluting vehicles entering central London, the first such surcharge introduced in a UK city (and to our knowledge, in any city across the world). With the aim of phasing out older Euro 4 vehicles – that is, cars which were registered before 2006 – it will introduce an extra £10 fee on top of the current congestion charge for vehicles that do not meet the minimum exhaust emission standards to enter London’s low emission zone. Transport for London (TfL), which runs the charging scheme, estimates that 40 per cent of drivers subject to the emission surcharge will upgrade their vehicle and 7 per cent will stop travelling into the zone.

The charge will also offer a significant additional source of income for TfL, on top of the £164m in net income generated by the congestion charge in 2016-17. This can be reinvested in other clean air measures, such as improving public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure. And because it’s a ‘bolt-on’ on to the current congestion charge, very little upfront cash is needed to implement it.

Yet the issue of poor air quality isn’t just a problem in London. Twenty-eight other places across the UK, including Leeds, Birmingham and Nottingham, recorded illegal levels of pollution last year, particularly in their most congested roads and city centres. These places are now required to submit their clean air strategy by March 2018, but none as yet have followed London’s lead by introducing measures such as a congestion charge (Durham is the only other place with this kind of scheme).

The capital’s policies therefore offer a way forward for these other cities – both in tackling congestion and pollution, and in generating income which can be invested in more environmentally-friendly modes of transport.

Adeline Bailly is a researcher at the Centre for Cities, on whose blog this article first appeared

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.


Was the decline in Liverpool’s historic population really that unusual?

A view of Liverpool from Birkenhead. Image: Getty.

It is often reported that Liverpool’s population halved after the 1930s. But is this true? Or is it a myth?

Often, it’s simply assumed that it’s true. The end. Indeed, proud Londoner Lord Adonis – a leading proponent of the Liverpool-bypassing High Speed 2 railway, current chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, and generally a very influential person – stood on the stairs in Liverpool Town Hall in 2011 and said:

“The population of Liverpool has nearly halved in the last 50 years.”

This raises two questions. Firstly, did the population of the City of Liverpool really nearly halve in the 50 year period to 2011? That’s easy to check using this University of Portsmouth website – so I did just that (even though I knew he was wrong anyway). In 2011, the population of the City of Liverpool was 466,415. Fifty years earlier, in 1961, it was 737,637, which equates to a 37 per cent drop. Oops!

In fact, the City of Liverpool’s peak population was recorded in the 1931 Census as 846,302. Its lowest subsequent figure was recorded in the 2001 Census as 439,428 – which represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over a 70 year period.

Compare this to the population figures for the similarly sized City of Manchester. Its peak population also recorded in the 1931 Census as 748,729, and its lowest subsequent figure was also recorded in the 2001 Census, as 392,830. This also represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over the same 70 year period.

So, as can be seen here, Liverpool is not a special case at all. Which makes me wonder why it is often singled out or portrayed as exceptional in this regard, in the media and, indeed, by some badly briefed politicians. Even London has a similar story to tell, and it is told rather well in this recent article by a Londoner, for the Museum of London. (Editor’s note: It’s one of mine.)

This leads me onto the second question: where have all those people gone: London? The Moon? Mars?

Well, it turns out that the answer is bit boring and obvious actually: after World War 2, lots of people moved to the suburbs. You know: cars, commuter trains, slum clearance, the Blitz, all that stuff. In other words, Liverpool is just like many other places: after the war, this country experienced a depopulation bonanza.

So what form did this movement to the suburbs take, as far as Liverpool was concerned? Well, people moved and were moved to the suburbs of Greater Liverpool, in what are now the outer boroughs of the city region: Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral. Others moved further, to Cheshire West & Chester, West Lancashire, Warrington, even nearby North Wales, as previously discussed here.

In common with many cities, indeed, Liverpool City Council actually built and owned large several ‘New Town’ council estates, to which they moved tens of thousands of people to from Liverpool’s inner districts: Winsford in Cheshire West (where comedian John Bishop grew up), Runcorn in Halton (where comedian John Bishop also grew up), Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, Kirkby in Knowsley. There is nothing unique or sinister here about Liverpool (apart from comedian John Bishop). This was common practice across the country – Indeed, it was central government policy – and resulted in about 160,000 people being ‘removed’ from the Liverpool local authority area.

Many other people also moved to the nearby suburbs of Greater Liverpool to private housing – another trend reflected across the country. It’s worth acknowledging, however, that cities across the world are subject to a level of ‘churn’ in population, whereby many people move out and many people move in, over time, too.

So how did those prominent images of derelict streets in the inner-city part of the City of Liverpool local authority area come about? For that, you have to blame the last Labour government’s over-zealous ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’ (HMRI) disaster – and the over enthusiastic participation of the then-Lib Dem controlled city council. On the promise of ‘free’ money from central government, the latter removed hundreds of people from their homes with a view to demolishing the Victorian terraces, and building new replacements. Many of these houses, in truth, were already fully modernised, owner-occupied houses within viable and longstanding communities, as can be seen here in Voelas Street, one of the famous Welsh Streets of Liverpool:

Voelas Street before HMRI implementation. Image:

The same picture after HMRI implementation Image: 

Nonetheless: the council bought the houses and ‘tinned them up’ ready for demolition. Then the coalition Conservative/Lib Dem government, elected in 2010, pulled the plug on the scheme. 

Fast forward to 2017 and many of the condemned houses have been renovated, in a process which is still ongoing. These are over-subscribed when they come to market, suggesting that the idea was never appropriate for Liverpool on that scale. 

At any rate, it turns out that the Liverpool metropolitan population is pretty much the same as it was at its peak in 1931 (depending where the local borough boundaries are arbitrarily drawn). It just begs the question: why are well educated and supposedly clever people misrepresenting the Liverpool metropolis, in particular, in this way so often? Surely they aren’t stupid are they?

And why are some people so determined to always isolate the City of Liverpool from its hinterland, while London is always described in terms of its whole urban area? It just confuses and undermines what would otherwise often be worthwhile comparisons and discussions. Or, to put it another way: “never, ever, compare apples with larger urban zones”.

In a recent Channel 4 documentary, for example, the well-known and respected journalist Michael Burke directly compared the forecast population growths, by 2039, of the City of Liverpool single local authority area against that of the combined 33 local authority areas of Greater London: 42,722 versus 2.187,708. I mean, what bizarre point is such an inappropriate comparison even trying to make? It is like comparing the projected growth of a normal sized-person’s head with the projected growth of the whole of an obese person, over a protracted period.

Having said all that, there is an important sensible conversation to be had as to why the populations of the Greater Liverpool metropolis and others haven’t grown as fast as maybe should have been the case, whilst, in recent times, the Greater London population has been burgeoning. But constantly pitching it as some sort of rare local apocalypse helps no one.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region, mostly monthly, in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’ and he is on twitter @davemail2017.