Hall refuses to criticise Johnson for considering ‘pay-per-mile’ charging as London mayor

The Tory mayoral candidate has repeatedly slammed Sadiq Khan for considering the same road charging concept also explored by his Conservative predecessor, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Susan Hall (left) and Boris Johnson (right, credit No10/Tom Evans)
Susan Hall (left) and Boris Johnson (right, credit No10/Tom Evans)

Susan Hall has refused to condemn Boris Johnson for having explored the possibility of a ‘pay-per-mile’ charge for London’s drivers – despite criticising Sadiq Khan for doing so.

Asked about the previous Conservative mayor’s consideration of a ‘road user charging’ scheme, the Tory mayoral candidate would only say that she was “looking to the future”, while stressing that she would never bring in such a charge herself.

In recent days Hall has repeatedly attacked Labour’s Khan for “planning a new pay-per-mile tax”, which she calls “his Ulez 2.0”.

The mayor has admitted asking TfL to explore the concept, but has promised it will not be pursued, saying: “As long as I am mayor, we’re not going to have pay-per-mile.”

In an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Hall appeared unwilling to acknowledge that the idea of charging Londoners “at the point of use” pre-dates Khan’s mayoralty by several years, and was considered by his Tory predecessor, Johnson.

The Conservative mayor’s 2014 transport emissions roadmap stated: “If funding and support was available from central government […] the way of paying for road use would be revised to be charged at the point of use.”

Johnson had already acknowledged in his 2010 transport strategy that “road user charging may be explored” as a form of “demand management in areas beyond the central London congestion charging zone […] if congestion becomes an increasing problem”.

Asked whether Johnson was wrong to consider the charge, Hall said: “I would not consider road user charging.

“Under me as mayor, I would not bring in London pay-per-mile. And for those that say ‘Well, Sadiq Khan says he’s not [looking at it], I would say this – he has spent £150million on software engineers that are looking at pay-per-mile.

“If you read his book – which I haven’t, but it’s been pointed out to me – he mentions it in that.”

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In his 2023 book, Breathe, Khan said he had “plans to introduce a new, more comprehensive road user charging system, to be implemented by the end of the decade at the latest”.

Hall’s reference to £150m being spent on software engineers is in relation to a Transport for London (TfL) scheme called Project Detroit.

The project is primarily focused on simplifying existing charges like the Ulez and congestion charge into one system, but another of its stated aims was to enable “charging based on distance, vehicle type, etc […] if a decision was made in future to do so”.

TfL has since insisted that “no such scheme [for pay-per-mile charging] is on the table or being developed”.

Asked again about Johnson’s exploration of the concept, Hall said: “I’m just talking to you about what I would do […] I’m telling you what I would do as mayor.”

She added that she had “no idea” what the previous mayor had considered regarding road user charging.

“We could go back years. I am telling you what I will do, and what I will not do,” she said.

“I will stop the Ulez expansion on day one and I will not bring in London pay-per-mile – I am looking to the future.”

Hall also declined to give her view on whether Mr Khan was right to expand the Ulez from its original central London boundaries to the North Circular and South Circular roads in 2021.

This move was dubbed the ‘inner London’ Ulez. Reform UK’s mayoral candidate, Howard Cox, has criticised Hall for only committing to removing Khan’s 2023 outer London Ulez expansion, as he has pledged to remove the zone completely from the whole of London.

Asked why she would not match that commitment, she said: “People in inner London are happy with it, and the [public] transport offer in inner London is completely different to outer London. I will stop the Ulez expansion on day one, and there is no question about that.”

She added: “I’m talking to people all the time and listening. Inner London, everyone I’ve spoken to so far is quite happy about that [being covered by Ulez]. In that first expansion, there’s a conflict of opinions.”

Asked about her own opinion on the inner London Ulez, she said: “I don’t live in it, I live in outer London.”

Pressed on the fact that the move affected millions of people in inner London, even if it didn’t affect her personally, she said: “It didn’t affect me. What I’m saying is I would stop the Ulez expansion on day one.”

The London mayoral election is on 2nd May, along with elections to the London Assembly.

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