An electric bus being driven to a low-carbon vehicle conference was fined for going through a low emission zone – despite being emission free.
The Brighton bus company faced a fine £1,800 because a Government database had not been updated to class the formerly diesel bus as electric.
Despite the intervention of former transport minister Norman Baker – who was the managing director of the bus company at the time – the battle went on for ten months.
It was only after the Brighton & Hove Independent flagged up the matter with Transport for London (TfL) yesterday (Thursday) that it agreed to scrap the charge.
Tom Druitt, founder of The Big Lemon, said: “It’s so ironic in so many ways. We were taking the bus to a major low carbon vehicle showcasing event last year. The fact that it was going up there at our cost to help the Government display low carbon vehicles makes it all the more ridiculous.”
Diesel vehicles pay £200 to pass through London’s low emission zones (LEZ), but because the bus was converted to electric early last year, Mr Druitt didn’t expect a charge.
The fine was handed to the company after the electric bus was being driven to an event in September by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, a body which advises the government on eco-friendly transport.
After receiving a penalty charge notice (PCN), Mr Druitt said the company sent evidence to TfL that the bus was electric and not diesel, and didn’t hear anything else until a threat that bailiffs would collect the cash.
Mr Druitt said he again sent evidence of the bus’s eco-credentials, but in May, bailiffs were sent to the depot in Whitehawk to collect the now £1,800 fine.
The matter went to a county court, but it ruled The Big Lemon would have to pay the charge.
Mr Druitt said: “From our perspective I think the crazy thing is that at no point along this process did anyone acknowledge that this is an electric bus, it’s zero emissions!”
“It was a bit of a ‘computer says no’ moment. It kept coming up as a diesel vehicle and as liable for the charge. I thought, ‘I know your database says that but it’s wrong’.”
TfL said it never received the evidence sent by The Big Lemon that the vehicle was electric, although Mr Druitt said the information was sent twice.
Even Norman Baker, the bus company’s former managing director who was previously a transport minister, failed to get the charge overturned.
Mr Druitt said: “This is about as low emission as you can get. Norman was the transport minister at the time when a lot of this legislation was put in place, and is now the one fighting the bureaucracy.”
TfL told Mr Druitt the matter was ‘out of their hands’ and the bill will be £1,508 plus enforcement fees, totalling around £1,800.
But yesterday, Paul Cowperthwaite, general manager of Road User Charging at TfL, said: “We completely support the use of electric vehicles in London and praise Mr Druitt for retrofitting his vehicle to meet LEZ standards.
“The vehicle was issued with a PCN as it is registered as diesel with the DVLA. However, we’ve now received confirmation that it is an electric vehicle and have cancelled the PCN and taken action to ensure that the vehicle is exempt from any low emission zone charges.”
Mr Druitt said: “I’m massively grateful to the Brighton & Hove Independent for making more progress on this in one day than we’ve managed in nine months, but I’ve been telling TfL this till I’m blue in the face, most recently this morning, so it’s a shame they couldn’t have acknowledged this earlier. However I’m grateful this is now resolved and would like to thank everyone involved.”