Ultra Low Emission Zone Fine
In September we had a lovely few days staying at one of our favourite city break sites in London. Then on the return home, an Ultra Low Emission Zone fine popped through the letterbox from Transport for London. Well, there’s a first time for everything and the way things are going, it’s something we may be seeing more of. Therefore, maybe this is one of those things we should just get used to!
But actually – NO it’s not! That’s because our Mercedes Sprinter campervan is a Euro 6 Diesel engine. Simply put, that means we shouldn’t be getting fines for entering the ultra low emission zone in the first place.
So as you can imagine, we were cross and ready to take on the battle to get the fine . It may be worth noting at this point that the zone was extended at the end of last year. This could be why we’ve not come into it on previous visits to Crystal Palace Site, but we really don’t know for sure.
Money Spinning System
First of all, here’s just how much of a money spinner this system is. For me, it’s hard to comprehend the scale of the £’s involved, I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s astonishing reading the RAC’s article which outlines the figures.
A staggering £112 million in charges came to TFL from the “tax” during the 8-month period up to June 2022. That’s for non-complying vehicles only entering the zone and paying the daily levy. The levy is £12.50 per vehicle but this amount increases depending on other factors such as size, weight and age.
That I may add is without any fines or penalty charges as TFL likes to call them, which are to add to this vast pot of dosh.
The RAC predicts that revenue from fines, which are in addition, are anything between £130 million and £261 million. This is for the same 8-month period.
By the way, a non-complying vehicle is anything that’s not a Euro 6 Diesel engine or a Euro 4 petrol engine.
Where was our fine from? Ultra Low Emission Zone
The Crystal Palace Caravan and Motorhome Club site is located in Crystal Palace, beside the sprawling park and within an easy bus ride to central London. It’s one site we’ve been to more times than we can remember.
Our route takes us on pretty much the identical roads which skirt the capital. In fact it’s a route we’ve come to quite enjoy.
This time though, on Elspeth Road which is opposite Clapham Common, we got our first “caught on camera” fine.
Do you know when your entering the zone?
To be honest, we had no idea we were in the zone! Certainly, it wasn’t through trying to to find out either.
Nigel had already been on the TFL website in great detail and came to a blank. That site is ultra confusing despite being full of ultra low emissions based jargon.
He’d also tried without success to contact TFL direct to query both our route and our vehicle.
As with many of these systems, I suppose they don’t really want to actually speak to their good citizens like ourselves. Although, we’re only trying to do the right thing. Maybe they’re just happy to take as many fines as they can and who can blame them at the rate they come in.
Quite frankly, along with the other “taxes” for driving in London, it’s really difficult for tourists like us to navigate the numerous charges, let alone concentrate on the actual driving.
Our Fine Arrives
So our fine pops through the letterbox on 28th September, just over a week after entering the zone.
It comes with a photo of our numberplate and our campervan driving along the road which means nothing to us. The “Mayor of London” is printed in bold on the bottom left corner, maybe we’re supposed to write and thank him!
Sadiq Khan, is of course the Mayor of London. The aim is to have 80% of transport to be by foot, bike or public transport form by 2041.
It’s no wonder we’re just a number in this very big system and our £80 fine is obviously very much in need for the cause.
By the way, the fine is £160.00 but it’s reduced to £80 for those that pay within 14 days of the date on the Mayor’s Penalty Charge Notice.
It warns if we don’t pay within 28 days then the fine will increase to a whopping £240.00.
Starting the reversal process
This is where, time, effort and patience begins, because as with most of these things, it takes every ounce of each to get exonerated.
Nigel immediately gets on the case. It’s a string of phone calls which eventually bring the first results.
We find out for definite that the fine should not have been sent in the first place.
Proof of Euro 6 Diesel Engine
Because our Mercedes Sprinter has a Euro 6 Diesel engine, we now know for sure that we shouldn’t be paying any fine. Simply because these are currently exempt.
The big “But” comes in proving we have a Euro 6 engine, because the Mayor’s TFL won’t just accept our word for it. They want proof and it’s up to us to prove it.
Copy of Log Book. Ultra Low Emission Zone Fine
Initially TFL tell us to send them a copy of the V5 log book as proof. We send this off by e-mail but our V5 doesn’t give any information of the Euro 6 status.
We know they’re going to be wanting proof, basically, the V5 isn’t going to give that proof. Sure enough, our V5 document isn’t good enough – the Mayor wants more evidence!
But how do we get it?
Physically Checking The Sprinter
We check every piece of paperwork from when we bought the Mercedes Sprinter campervan, which was from new, but nothing says Euro 6.
Luckily we know for sure it is Euro 6. We know because we did our homework when buying and ordering but also because it takes Ad Blue. At the time back in 2015, this was new, to the point where we had difficulty finding places that stocked it.
We then check the engine and just about everywhere else on the Sprinter, but there is not one item that specifically states that it’s Euro 6.
Next we have two choices: Either pay the £80 fine which is now nearing £160.00 because time is ticking on from the date on the letter.
Contact Mercedes-Benz to try and get proof off the manufacture themselves.
We choose the latter, e-mailing the UK offices and hoping for the best. This was then passed on to their Homologation Department.
Letter of Confirmation. Ultra Low Emission Zone Fine
Luckily, Mercedes were really helpful and within a few days they sent us a letter to confirm our Sprinter was indeed a Euro 6.
We then forwarded this on to TFL’s Mayor of London and kept everything crossed.
Transport For London’s Reply
About 5 weeks after the fine is issued, we finally receive another letter from the Mayor’s TFL.
They are pleased to inform us that they have reviewed the issue of the Penalty Charge Notice and our representation has been accepted and they have cancelled the Penalty Charge.
Well whoopee! They also acknowledge the evidence we provided confirmed to them that our vehicle meets the ULEZ standards and is compliant and no further action will be taken!
So, all this we knew 5 years ago. That we are indeed Euro 6 and the Mayors TFL allows Euro 6, so the fine was basically an error.
Feeling This is Just The Beginning
Don’t you just feel like this is just the beginning of what’s to come?
At least we now have a letter as proof of Euro 6. We can also get a Certificate of Conformity, if we pay £80 to Mercedes for the privilege, but haven’t done this as yet.
As more and more towns, cities and locations turn to low emission zones, we can only imagine the restrictions for access will increase in the coming months and years.
On top of anything else, there’s the extraordinary amount of income generated from charges and fines within these zones. Once these revenues are coming in, there’s little us mere campervan and motorhome enthusiasts can do to prevent the inevitable. Yes – more charges, fines and probably bans altogether will be upon us forever more!
Unless they’re ready to buy a new motorhome, those driving older campervans, really need to take care to avoid paying daily charges or even worse, daily fines.
It could work out at a very costly holiday for all the wrong reasons!