Empowering the Freelance Economy

ULEZ expansion: it’s killing trade and pushing up costs for tradespeople, customers finds new study

Tradespeople are losing business because of ULEZ charge/ Photo by Allan Mas via Pexels
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One in four London tradespeople say the ULEZ expansion has had a detrimental impact on business. A new study finds it could undermine the Mayor of London’s plans to improve the city’s housing stock so should there be a call for it to be delayed?

The Congestion and ULEZ charges, which are supposed to be building a greener London, may be bringing down congestion and small percentages of air pollution, but they are also proving a major barrier to doing business in the capital.

London tradespeople are being forced to increase their prices due to ULEZ, according to a study from Fix Radio – a national radio station for builders and tradespeople. The study has found that one in four (23%) London tradespeople say the ULEZ expansion has had a detrimental impact on their business.

The data from Fix shows that 25% of London tradespeople say they have had to increase their prices in the last year due to increasing transport costs and have lost work as a result. As the ULEZ expansion is just under two months away from coming into force, tradespeople are set to be among those worst hit by the new regulation.

Research from the Federation of Master Builders has shown that increases to transportation costs, such as rising parking fees over the last 18 months has forced 80% of tradespeople in the Capital to increase their prices.

Key Stats:

  • 23% of London tradespeople say it is too expensive to use their van or vehicle for work due to the cost of driving into London
  • 25% of London tradespeople say they have had to increase their prices in the last year due to increasing transport costs and have lost work as a result
  • 23% of London tradespeople say the ULEZ expansion has had a detrimental impact on their business
  • 80% of London tradespeople have had to raise their prices over the past year

Source: Fix Radio

Since the Congestion Charge was introduced 20 years ago:

  • Limited traffic entering the zone by 18 per cent during weekday charging hours
  • Reduced congestion by 30 per cent 
  • Boosted bus travel in central London by 33 per cent  
  • Enabled 10 per cent of journeys to switch to walking, cycling and public transport
  •  More than 1000 zero-emission buses operate in the TFL fleet – both single and double-deck

Source: TFL

Is going green a rich man’s game?

The cost of fuel for tradespeople travelling to jobs across the UK, is “grim,” said the report, but the picture in London is “particularly severe”.

Fix Radio opined that the impact of the ULEZ expansion stands to “undermine the Mayor of London’s plea for tradespeople to work in the Capital to help improve the city’s housing stock.”

With the Mayor facing difficulties in matching his proposed targets for housebuilding, Sadiq Khan said in January of 2022, “Put simply, materials and labour are needed to build homes”.

“However, policies such as the expansion, coupled with minimal provisions to cover future overheads, seek to undermine the supposed importance of tradespeople, deterring them from traveling into London to work on essential housing projects,” said the report.

To combat increasing costs for tradespeople as a result of the ULEZ expansion, a £110m scrappage scheme has been launched to help fund the purchase of new vehicles that are ULEZ-compliant. Under the new scrappage fund, sole traders and tradespeople working for a micro-business (those with 10 employees and under) have been granted extra provisions of between £5,000-£9,000 to help transition to a low-polluting or EV alternative, Fix Radio reported.

It is not only happening in London it’s happening in cities around the UK including Birmingham and Bath, the tradesperson who is going about their daily job I think is being victimised.

Clive Holland, broadcaster, Fix Radio

EV provisions “do not go far enough”

However, for tradespeople, this allocation covers a “mere fraction” of what it would cost to swap their vehicle. With an EV equivalent of Britain’s best-selling van, the Ford Transit, starting at £48,000 for its most basic model, the “provisions clearly do not go far enough”, according to Fix Radio.

“Even for those who could afford the significant outlay to purchase a new van, a report commissioned by Transport for London estimated that 30,000 non-compliant vans currently use the ULEZ expansion area every day, despite the fact there are only 23,803 vans that meet the new requirements for sale in the UK,” said the report.

Tradespeople haven’t had the pat on the back that they deserve for helping through the pandemic and putting themselves in dangerous situations.

Clive Holland, broadcaster on Fix Radio
All-Electric Ford E-Transit is the car manufacturer’s first all-electric commercial vehicle. A 400-volt battery with 68 kWh of usable power is a not-so-cheap solution for low-emission zones at £48,045 exc. VAT 

Clive Holland, broadcaster on Fix Radio, said of the ULEZ expansion:

“I have to say from a personal point of view I think through the pandemic our industry was asked to continue to build which we did. Without the construction industry, the UK economy would collapse – you’ve seen a lot of strikes recently but if tradespeople ever decided to strike it would cause significant issues throughout the UK. Tradespeople haven’t had the pat on the back that they deserve for helping through the pandemic and putting themselves in dangerous situations.”

Holland suggested when the ban on red diesel came, the ULEZ extension, the general taxation of vehicles and the electric vans requirement, were piled on at once creating major burdens to tradespeople which seriously affected their income.

“It is not only happening in London it’s happening in cities around the UK including Birmingham and Bath, the tradesperson who is going about their daily job I think is being victimised,” said Holland.

Holland said at this time with Brits battling inflation and recession it means that customers are turning down jobs because they can’t afford it and tradespeople are “encountering extra fees, such as the ULEZ charge which makes jobs less desirable.”

🗣️Do you think tradespeople should get special rates for Congestion and ULEZ charges or larger financial incentives to purchase EV vehicles? Please share your comments

ULEZ boundary description – Transport for London (tfl.gov.uk)

Paying the ULEZ charge – Transport for London (tfl.gov.uk)

Vans and Pickups Showroom | Ford UK

Fix Radio | The Builders Station

1 Comment
  1. Miles says

    Literally thousands – last estimate 3.6-4.1 thousand people die every year in London alone from air pollution. Let alone the ones who’s lives are reduced because of the poison coming out of these vans and what about the cost to the NHS and society as a whole in £££ value – it’s way higher than these costs to trades. Put your prices up. Buy a new van or find a job that doesn’t kill people.

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