Coach operators left high and dry on ULEZ

THE PREPARATIONS for the introduction of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone next April are frankly a disgrace. Coach operators have a right to be angry. I am not referrring to the implementation of air quality standards, but the fact that the certification process for potential retrofit systems is simply not fit for purpose. At the time of writing, just six months before the introduction of the ULEZ, there are no approved retrofit solutions available to operators with coaches of Euro 5 or earlier that would guarantee their compliance by April 2019. One system is close to being approved, but that only covers one chassis model from one aftermarket retrofit supplier. It appears that a key logjam is capacity at Millbrook Proving Ground to carry out the testing, although there is an inherent challenge when it comes to testing coaches given the large number of variants in this market, compared to buses which have greater standardisation and have had approved options in place for some time. Lack of capacity for testing at Millbrook means it will be a considerable time before there are retrofit options available across the coach parc, and of course, given that testing is an expensive process for suppliers, there will be plenty of less popular models which will never have a viable retrofit, given the small number in the market. The government has just announced more funding for the testing system, but it is a fairly paltry amount and likely to go to truck testing. We now have the prospect of large numbers of coaches being noncompliant come April and being forced to pay the £100 a day fee, or not travelling into central London at all. Think for a moment what that means; TfL will be collecting plenty of money, but it will not have achieved the desired improvement in air quality which is the whole point of the policy. At the very least, TfL should be urged to set aside all revenue from the coach sector paid in ULEZ ‘fines’ during 2019 and re-direct that money into speeding up the testing process to ensure that coach operators have retrofit options available