Tories warn Khan will wage new war on motorists after Ulez with 'pay-per-mile' charging system

Sadiq Khan speaks onstage during the 2023 Concordia Annual Summit at Sheraton New York

Sadiq Khan speaks onstage during the 2023 Concordia Annual Summit at Sheraton New York

Jack Walters

By Jack Walters

Published: 16/11/2023

- 22:24

The Mayor of London is facing fresh questions about his stance on drivers amid concerns about ‘Project Detroit'

Sadiq Khan will wage a new war on motorists by introducing a Singapore-style pay-per-mile scheme, Conservative Assembly Members have warned.

Tory AMs in City Hall cautioned the capital’s car-owners about a potential new levy which the London Mayor could introduce.

Khan, who spoke out against the idea in September, locked horns with Conservative Assembly Member Peter Fortune about a scheme called ‘Project Detroit’.

The project, named after the American city which was once the focal point of the automotive industry, lists one of its aims as enabling “forms of charging based on distance … if a decision was made in future to do so”.

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However, Fortune cited Khan’s previous commitment to not expanding Ulez in July 2021 as an example of why Londoners should remain cautious.

The Bexley & Bromley Assembly Member asked for further information about ‘Project Detroit’.

Khan replied: “I’m afraid I can’t, I don’t know what Project Detroit is.”

The London Mayor was able to categorically reject any suggestion his administration could implement a pay-per-mile scheme.

“I’ve been crystal clear, a pay-per-mile scheme is not on the table and not on my agenda,” he said.

A Ulez protestThe Ulez expansion has been met with protestsPA

Khan stressed his previous comments merely reiterated Transport for London keeps such schemes “under review”, adding: “Sometime in the future smarter technology might be available to simplify the current schemes like congestion charge and Ulez.”

However, Fortune referred to a Freedom of Information request sent to Transport for London in December 2022.

The request described “develop[ing] a prototype for a distance based journey estimation” as one of Project Detroit’s “significant milestones”.

Project Detroit is also said to have had a total of 97 staff members as of November 2022.

Fortune asked Khan if he could “confirm that [Project Detroit] has been cancelled, if pay-per-mile road user charging is off the table”.


Peter Fortune is a British Conservative politician serving as the Member of the London Assembly for Bexley and Bromley since 2021

Peter Fortune is a British Conservative politician serving as the Member of the London Assembly for Bexley and Bromley since 2021


He also queried whether it is possible to visit and speak with any technicians who may currently be working on Project Detroit.

Khan repeatedly claimed he had not heard of the project.

The London Mayor, who is seeking re-election in May, added he is “more than happy for TfL to look into the questions you’ve asked and to follow up”.

The Tory Party’s City Hall deputy leader Emma Best doubled-down on Conservative concerns about a pay-per-mile system.

Speaking to journalists after Mayor’s Question Time, Best said: “We are really concerned about the ways in which that impacts certain communities, especially those who don’t have access to public transport and rely on those vehicles, lower-income families, small businesses, much in the way that Ulez has impacted people.

“What’s really damning is this misdirection. With Ulez, only a year before it was expanded, Sadiq Khan said he had no intention of doing that and then went ahead and did it. That really misled people in terms of buying vehicles which were not compliant.

Tory Party\u2019s City Hall deputy leader Emma Best

Tory Party’s City Hall deputy leader Emma Best


“The same thing is happening now with this. He’s indicated before that he’s interested in a Singapore-style system and smart-roads using charging and pay-per-mile. But he’s now saying I have no interest in doing that.”

She added: “I think that he has the election in mind and he’s seeing the backlash to Ulez and that’s why he’s taken it off the table.

“That’s why I think it would be the right and honourable thing to make clear his true intentions to people so that they can vote on that basis.”

A Transport for London spokesperson added: “Any work carried out or staff hired as part of Project Detroit has been in relation to TfL’s existing road user charging schemes.

“This was part of TfL’s wider work to bring in-house the currently outsourced system for which the contract expires in 2026.

"Pay-per-mile charging has been ruled out by the Mayor and no such scheme is on the table or being developed.”

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