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German Carmaker Challenges London's Planned Pollution Charge

Porsche has launched a court challenge in London against a plan to impose hefty charges on high-emissions vehicles entering the city center. The carmaker called the program disproportionate, illegal and unfair.

London traffic

Driving Porsches in London could get very pricey

The German luxury sports car maker lodged papers at the Royal Courts of Justice on Wednesday, April 2, in a bid to stop London Mayor Ken Livingstone's proposed charge.

Under the mayor's plan, from October, people with cars that emit more than 225 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer -- such as sports utility vehicles and high-powered performance cars -- will pay a daily charge of 25 pounds ($49.70, 31.75 euros) to drive into central London.

"Not only is this new tax on motorists unfair, it is also a disproportionate and illegal use of power by the mayor," said Andy Goss, managing director of Porsche Cars GB, after the judicial review papers were filed.

"The Porsche case is about protecting London and Londoners from a new tax that will not only fail to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in central London, but also increase congestion and damage air quality."

A judge will now have to decide within the next few days whether to proceed with the case.

Not backing down

Livingstone appeared to be unswayed by Porsche's criticism and vowed to fight the legal action.

"Porsche's self-serving legal action shows their continuing contempt for the views of Londoners," he said. "Porsche should be using its engineering expertise to create low-polluting cars, not its lawyers to oppose the democratic wishes of Londoners.

According to a recent poll, 61 percent of Londoners approve of increasing the congestion tax for gas-guzzling vehicles.

He added: "Londoners, not car manufacturers, should be the ones to decide how to tackle pollution in their city. I will vigorously contest Porsche's legal action."

Elections might change things

However, the pollution charge may never be imposed.

Londoners vote in mayoral elections on May 1 and opinion polls have put Livingstone's main rival Boris Johnson in the lead. The Conservative candidate has vowed to ditch Livingstone's plan.

It is the latest program targeting London's traffic pollution and congestion problems.

For five years, London has been assessing drivers a daily congestion charge, now set at eight pounds, to drive into the central city and a large swath around it. The fee was designed to tackle the bottlenecks that have turned much of London into a parking lot.

The UK capital is the biggest urban area in the world to charge such a toll and city officials from around the globe have considered copying the idea.

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