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Patients at new cancer centre just inside new smog charge zone face hurdle to get refunds

Council faces bills over school buses which pump out emissions

09 April, 2019 — By Tom Foot

CANCER patients will have to prove they are too sick to get public transport in order avoid the new emissions charge that came into force this week.

Patients getting dropped off for chemotherapy at the new Macmillan Cancer Centre in cars that do not meet new environmental specifications will have to pay the £12.50 daily charge, and then reclaim the money.

The ULEZ, the Ultra Low Emissions Zone, currently the same area as the congestion charge zone, is being introduced in a drastic move to cut illegal pollution levels hanging over central London.

But a side effect of the new system, according to sources at the centre run by University College London Hospital, will be extra layers of “bureaucracy”.

Transport for London said this week charges will only be cancelled if they fill out a form on the ward, get it signed by a consultant and take it to a cashier’s office for a cash refund.

“This is going to be huge extra burden for often already very weak patients – particularly cancer patients – who may not have time or mental strength to cope with forms and bureaucracy,” said one insider.

Disabled hospital patients who can prove they are clinically unable to take public transport can get a refund in the same way.

They will not be refunded for driving to central London unless attending appointments in hospital. All drivers of vehicles with non-compliant engines will have to pay £12.50 a day on top of the congestion charge.

In October 2021, TfL plans to expanded these charges include the whole of Camden. The UCLH governing body had complained to TfL that “neutropenic” patients – those with compromised immune systems – should not have to pay the pollution levy as travelling on public transport can be dangerous for them.

The New Journal and sister paper Westminster Extra reported on the dispute, and TfL has now agreed to allow them to reclaim the charge.

A UCLH spokesman said: “Most vehicles including cars and vans will need to meet new, tighter exhaust emission standards (ULEZ standards) or be liable for a daily charge to drive within the ULEZ area. Most UCLH hospitals are within this zone. If you drive to central London, please visit the TfL website to see if it affects you.”

Alex Williams, director of city planning at TfL, said: “Patients with impaired immune systems will be able apply for a reimbursement via their hospital if it is in the zone, once the scheme launches next week.”

Meanwhile, Camden Council says it also having to pay £13,000 in charges over the next three months for two diesel-powered buses that pick up schoolchildren from inside the ULEZ zone.

The wheelchair-adapted buses, which take children from the area south of Euston Road to Swiss Cottage School, are due to be replaced by the start of the school term September.

A source inside the Town Hall said the charges due to be paid until then amounted to around £600 of council funds each day. The charge will be paid to TfL, a public body.

The council said by May it would have replaced 90 per cent of its entire fleet with ULEZ-compliant vehicles, adding: “We now expect to have the entire bus fleet replaced with Compressed Natural Gas [CNG]-powered vehicles, ready for the new term, after the summer holiday, in September.”

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