Transport for London (TfL) has refused to answer questions about the cost of widespread criminal damage to ULEZ cameras.

This newspaper has filed a formal complaint with the Information Commissioner after TfL refused to say how many cameras had been sabotaged or how much it would cost to fix them.

It suggested that reporting this information would “encourage” further offences.  

But the Campaign for Freedom of Information (CFOI) said TfL’s argument was “highly questionable”.

Vandals calling themselves “blade runners” have spent months boasting about sabotaging ULEZ cameras, after the anti-pollution scheme was extended into greater London in summer 2023.

ULEZ vans were also targeted.

But our investigation into the cost of attacks on ULEZ cameras was blocked by TfL - twice.

Times Series: ULEZ cameras were cut down in Dartford and Thamesmead in SeptemberULEZ cameras were cut down in Dartford and Thamesmead in September (Image: Anon/Wayne Robertson)

TfL claimed the information we asked for would be “of great interest to individuals who wish to cause disruption to our network for notoriety".

It added that in response to ongoing sabotage of ULEZ cameras, it is “greatly limiting” transparency over its entire “enforcement and infrastructure” operations.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s office refused to comment on whether he thought this was appropriate or supported suppressing information about ULEZ sabotage.

ULEZ was expanded to cover all of London in August, meaning owners of high-polluting vehicles face a £12.50 charge every day they drive them inside the capital.

Opponents claim it imposes an unfair additional expense on those who cannot afford to upgrade to less-polluting vehicles.

Mr Khan countered that relatively few non-compliant cars were driven in the capital and a scrappage scheme would help people fund upgrades.

But balaclava-wearing “blade runners” claim to have destroyed hundreds of cameras in protest, despite Mr Khan's defence of the scheme.

Times Series: A vandalised ULEZ van in SidcupA vandalised ULEZ van in Sidcup (Image: Contributor)

We asked TfL under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws how many cameras had been sabotaged in each borough and how much it would cost to repair them all.

It claimed answering would jeopardise public safety, interfere with the course of justice and disclose commercially sensitive information.

When we disputed those claims, it added: “Due to the ongoing concerns regarding the criminal activity which is taking place TfL have taken the security decision to greatly limit the volume and detail of information we are disclosing to the world at large about our enforcement and infrastructure as a whole.

“The panel believe that where dangerous and illegal activities are being carried out, this incitement and encouragement to others is likely to increase the risk to individuals and then lead to harm arising.”

Times Series: One of the sabotaged cameras in Biggin HillOne of the sabotaged cameras in Biggin Hill (Image: Terry Burt)

Maurice Frankel, director of CFOI, said the same argument “could be applied to statistics about all kinds of violent attacks”, like hate crimes.

“Keeping the public in the dark about the extent of these problems may obstruct efforts to address them,” he said.

Mr Frankel said he “could see some point” in TfL’s arguments, but added that FOI required a public interest test.

“There is a strong public interest in knowing the extent of, and the cost to the public of dealing with, these attacks,” he said.

“Withholding the information may limit pressure for further measures to prevent them.

“Suppressing such information at a time when ULEZ seems set to become a general election issue – and therefore of particular public interest – seems highly questionable.”

Times Series: Attacks on ULEZ cameras and staff became so commonplace that other highway maintenance began attaching 'Not ULEZ' signs to their vehicles, to stave off violence and criminal damageAttacks on ULEZ cameras and staff became so commonplace that other highway maintenance began attaching 'Not ULEZ' signs to their vehicles, to stave off violence and criminal damage (Image: SWNS)

Two Conservative assembly members raised similar concerns.

Peter Fortune, for Bexley and Bromley, said: “Sadiq Khan promised to run ‘the most transparent, honest and accessible administration London has ever seen’.

“His record has been anything but – particularly around the unfair ULEZ expansion to outer London.”

Keith Prince, for Havering and Redbridge concurred, adding: “This seems to be de rigueur for the mayor of London who, whilst being the self-professed most transparent mayor we’ve ever had, clearly is not transparent at all. I will raise this question and ask the mayor why he’s not being transparent.”

TfL called the vandalism “unacceptable” but added: “Camera vandalism will not stop the ULEZ from operating London-wide."

It said its “extensive camera network” was “sufficient to support the effective operation of the scheme”.

It would not comment on our formal complaint to the Information Commissioner.