A Harrow dad fears his coffee van business could go bust if the London ULEZ is expanded to cover the whole of the city and he is forced to pay the £12.50 daily charge.

Bob Golbert, 56, runs a coffee truck in North West London, delivering coffee and snacks to more than 30 businesses a day. 

If the ultra-low emission zone is extended to cover outer London boroughs, the fact his van is diesel will mean he will have to pay £12.50 a day to go on his rounds – something he says could eventually put him out of business. 


Bob said: “I put a good chunk of my life’s savings into this and, so far, everything’s been going quite well. 

“I haven’t recouped my investment yet, but I’d planned it for a few years down the line. This was supposed to be my last job before retirement but I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue.

“People say ‘oh it’s only a few coffees’ but it all adds up, it’ll be thousands of pounds. We’re on tight margins as it is, we’re expecting a huge recession. This might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

Bob took on running his own franchise following the pandemic after he was made redundant from the NGO where he worked for two decades. He said if he is forced to pack it in, he will be in the same position but will be older and with less money. 

The father of two said he supports the move to driving less polluting vehicles, but said there needs to be the infrastructure in place to enable more people to switch to them.  Bob said: “I would love to buy electric, but I only have on-street parking. There needs to be proper investment into providing charging points so people can make the change. 

“The mayor either hasn’t thought it out properly, or he doesn’t care. I’d really like to ask him which it is. It reminds me of the old mafia films where they come up to you and, even if you don’t have the money they just say ‘f*** you, pay me’.”

He added his franchisor, Cafe2U, recently bought a new fleet of electric vehicles in its attempt to “create change” but that they can only be given to those who have access to chargers. Bob also questioned why the planned expansion – which, if approved, is scheduled to come into effect in 2023 – is being put through so quickly when there hasn’t been enough evidence into its impact. 

He said: “We all want cleaner air for our children, of course we do. It’s a great political soundbite. But we’re not going to have healthier children if they’re growing up in poverty. And as far as I’m aware, the early signs show the air is technically cleaner, but we don’t yet know if this is having an impact on people’s health. There hasn’t been enough time to collect the evidence.”

Last month, Harrow Council passed a motion outlining its “strong opposition” to the plans and called on the Mayor to spend the money earmarked for the extension on other environmentally-friendly transport improvements. 

Cllr Paul Osborn, leader of Harrow Council, said: “We’re about to declare a cost of living emergency and yet we’re pushing this cost onto Harrow residents. It’s not the people who can afford to change their cars, it will be the poorest people and businesses that are struggling who will be forced to pay this charge.

“We want to make it clear that the London Borough of Harrow opposes this and we will do everything in our power to challenge this even, if necessary, in the courts.”

When he announced the consultation on the proposed expansion, which ended last week, Sadiq Khan said it was vital London takes action to tackle climate change. He said: “The triple challenges of tackling toxic air pollution, the climate emergency and congestion mean we need to further reduce emissions from vehicles in London. 

“We simply don’t have time to waste. The climate emergency means we only have a small window of opportunity left to reduce carbon emissions to help save the planet.

“And despite the world-leading progress we have made over the last few years, there is still far too much toxic air pollution permanently damaging the lungs of young Londoners and leading to thousands of deaths every year, with the greatest number of deaths attributable to air pollution in outer London boroughs.” 

He added he would consider the financial impact this would have on Londoners but that approving the expansion could mean that “lives will be saved”.