Exclusive! Minibuses could face £100 ULEZ charge

Registration system hikes £12.50 charge set by TfL, catching potentially thousands of 16-seaters in the N2 ‘van’ category

An Essex minibus operator is to challenge Transport for London over a ULEZ charge – after revealing an issue which could affect thousands of pre-Euro 6 minibuses in the UK.

The ULEZ charge for a 16-seat minibus under five tonnes is set at £12.50, but almost ALL van conversions built before 2011 are registered as N2-rated vans, and incur a whopping £100 ULEZ fee. Additionally, even more recent pre-Euro 6 conversions which haven’t gone through European Individual Vehicle Approval may fall foul of their V5 vehicle type.

Chris Thompson, who runs Compass Travel (UK) from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, checked his 2010 Excel Conversions Sprinter against the TfL database to discover that it would incur the £100 charge: “When I discovered this anomaly, I had some serious discussions with the DVLA, who eventually said that if I could produce a Certificate of Conformity for the vehicle, they would consider changing the V5 record.

“Through the receiver for Excel [which went out of business this year], its former director Peter Vernon kindly got back to me, but said that this certificate was not available when the vehicle was built.

“The ULEZ charge system is clearly set out and obviously doesn’t intend to charge minibuses as vans. So I will be taking a group into London, paying the £12.50, and contesting the £100, in court if necessary.”

Minibus Options’ Director and expert in registration of conversions, Steve Moore, told Bus & Coach Buyer that the implementation of the four EC Vehicle Approval systems began in Autumn 2011, so it is likely that the majority, if not all, pre-2011 vehicles may be caught up in the ULEZ problem, because the vehicle classification is based on the V5.

“Indeed, a number of converters still convert base vehicles already registered as vans, and get a Certificate of Initial Fitness. These vehicles will also be recorded as N2, not the M2 passenger vehicle class which Minibus Options and others achieve with Individual, or Whole Vehicle, Type Approval systems.

“The attraction in buying minibuses converted and COIF’d is price; there are cost savings in taking this route. Another attraction is that, for example, an extra-long wheelbase vehicle can be converted to take more wheelchairs with COIF than would be passed under IVA.”

Peter Thompson echoed the annoyance of many operators at the errors in the TfL ULEZ data: “I know one coach operator who ran a 49-seater into London and, when he went to pay, was only charged £12.50…”

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