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Frustration as ULEZ scrappage scheme struggles to meet demand

Scrapped Vauxhall Zafira
Scrapped Vauxhall Zafira

Motorists are offered up to £2000 towards the cost of a ULEZ-compliant car

Motorists wanting to dispose of cars that don’t comply with London’s new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and claim mayor Sadiq Khan’s scrappage scheme grant are saying that Transport for London’s processing system is struggling to cope and vehicle breakers are overwhelmed.

The ULEZ was expanded to cover all London boroughs on 29 August. To enter the zone free of charge, petrol cars must be at least Euro 4-compliant for NOx emissions, and diesel cars at least Euro 6 for NOx and particulate matter.

According to the RAC, there were around 700,000 non-compliant cars registered in Greater London when the zone was expanded.

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On 30 January, Khan launched a £110 million scrappage scheme (later extended to £160 million), offering their owners a £2000 grant towards the cost of a ULEZ-compliant car, and already more than £100m has been claimed. TfL says that it aims to process grant applications within 10 days.

However, with the expanded ULEZ now in operation, applicants are reporting that it’s taking much longer.

ULEZ sign
ULEZ sign

One of them, Lucy Hill, who lives in Twickenham, said: “My application has been six weeks of ‘computer says no’.” Meanwhile, drivers claim that London’s breakers have received so many cars that they are unable to scrap them, preventing them from issuing the Certificate of Destruction required by TfL before it will issue the £2000 grant cheque.

Annie Moore, also of Twickenham, said: “As soon as my application was approved, I took my car to be scrapped, but I was told it would take three weeks to do that and issue the certificate.”

One breaker, Durnford Street Car Dismantlers of Tottenham, told Autocar that the number of vehicles it had received for scrapping had increased by 85% in the past three weeks.

“We’re not alone, and I know some breakers are struggling to issue Certificates of Destruction,” said a spokesman.

Scrapped cars in breaker's yard
Scrapped cars in breaker's yard

TfL says that if the car qualifies for the grant, the application should take 10 days to process and, following receipt of the Certificate of Destruction, it should take a further 10 for the grant cheque to be issued.

Including delays at breakers, this means that some Londoners are waiting well over a month to receive their £2000 payment.

A TfL spokesman said: “We apologise if anyone’s scrappage application is taking too long and we’re working hard to ensure that everyone is responded to as quickly as possible.

“Ahead of the ULEZ scrappage scheme expanding to all Londoners with a non-compliant car, we increased our resource to deal with the volume of applications.”

Scrapped cars in breaker's yard
Scrapped cars in breaker's yard

To qualify for the scrappage grant, a driver must live in a Greater London borough and have been the registered keeper of their vehicle since at least 30 January 2022. In addition, the vehicle must be insured and road taxed and have a valid MOT certificate.

ULEZ revenue to “decline sharply” by 2028

ULEZ sign
ULEZ sign

Transport for London expects revenue generated by the expanded ULEZ to drop sharply in around two years’ time before falling to “negligible” levels towards the end of the decade.

In response to a recent Freedom of Information request about forecasted revenue generation from the widened ULEZ scheme, it replied: “TfL estimates that the London-wide ULEZ could generate up to £200 million a year for the first two years following expansion on 29 August but that this will decline sharply to approximately £50m in 2025/2026.”

It added that by 2027/2028, proceeds are “projected to be negligible”, because the amount of noncompliant cars entering the capital will have dropped far below today’s 10% rate.

TfL noted that all money generated by its road charging schemes is required to be invested “in improving transport links in outer London”.

What is the ULEZ scrappage scheme?

Mk5 Volkswagen Golf and Mk1 Vauxhall Zafira in scrapyard
Mk5 Volkswagen Golf and Mk1 Vauxhall Zafira in scrapyard

The ULEZ scrappage scheme offers Greater London residents a £2000 award for scrapping a car that does not comply with the zone's emissions standards.

It was launched in January 2023 with £110 million of backing from City Hall, targeting Londoners on low incomes and disability benefits. In August, the scheme was extended to all residents of Greater London.

How does it work?

To apply for the scrappage scheme, you must be a resident of one of London's 32 boroughs. Your car must have valid insurance, road tax and MOT, and you must have been its registered keeper since 30 January 2022 or earlier.

If your application is approved, you must scrap the vehicle at a TfL-approved treatment centre within one month.

Do not scrap the car until TfL has approved your application and told you to do so, because this is likely to bar you from receiving payment.

Mk1 Vauxhall Zafira on forklift
Mk1 Vauxhall Zafira on forklift

The centre will provide a certificate of destruction that must send a copy of to TfL, as evidence the vehicle has been scrapped.

Once TfL has received and verified the evidence that you have scrapped your car, it will process the payment.

Beware that this payment can affect some means-tested income-based benefits, as it is officially treated as savings.

How do I apply for the ULEZ scrappage scheme?

Man taking notes facing Apple Macbook laptop
Man taking notes facing Apple Macbook laptop

You can apply for the ULEZ scrappage scheme on the TfL website.

First, you must log in to (or create, if you do not already have) your London Road User Charging (RUC) account on the site. Your name on the account must match that on your car's V5 and the photo ID you plan to submit as evidence.

You must then upload the following documents: your photo ID (such as a passport), proof that you live at a London address (such as a bill dated within the past three months), the front and second page of your car's V5, and your valid car insurance certificate.

TfL claims that it aims to process every application within 10 working days of its submission. You will be contacted via email if your application has been approved.

There are several hoops to jump through, but you can register your car as ULEZ-compliant if it meets a specific set of criteria.

Additional reporting by Charlie Martin

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