ULEZ surcharge API being closed?

I received the below email from a .tfl.gov.uk user, essentially in two weeks the ULEZ API is being closed down.

Is there an alternative, or is no one going to be able to find out if a vehicle is ULEZ compliant anymore?

Also, the email says “we are no longer licenced…”, this is open data, I am not sure how this can have changed, can someone please explain as I have a business that is using this API frequently?

===
You have been identified as a user of the TfL Unified API, endpoint “Gets the ULEZ Surcharge compliance for the Vehicle.”

This endpoint will soon be decommissioned as we are no longer licenced to provide the data openly. The planned removal of the endpoint will be between 24/02/22 and 4/3/22.

I hope you found this information useful.

===

Edited: Changed formatting

I would guess that the data actually belongs to the DVLA? Perhaps you should switch to DVLA Vehicle Enquiry Service API | DVLA API Developer Portal ?

I thought that the whole point of open data was to “let a thousand flowers bloom”. If these really are open data, the idea of one government department telling another public authority that they cannot use the data and make the results open data would seem downright fatuous.

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We do actually already use the DVLA VES service, it does not contain any information on ULEZ, which is a London specific charge.

Firstly, is there any way to even confirm this is happening, apart from this email I have not found any other information. Other businesses that use this API have not received such an email, its all rather confusing?

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Other businesses that use this API have not received such an email, its all rather confusing?

I can confirm that we have also received this notification.

Pulling an API with a couple of weeks notice and minimal explanation isn’t ideal.

Developers have put huge investments into innovative applications that save TFL on development and marketing costs, whilst helping people plan better use of TFL services.

I don’t think this sends a good message to companies looking to invest in the development of future applications that use TFL data.

A more detailed explanation for the unexpected removal of this API endpoint would be appreciated. Thanks.

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“The release of open data by TfL is generating annual economic benefits and savings of up to £130m for travellers, London and TfL itself”

https://content.tfl.gov.uk/deloitte-report-tfl-open-data.pdf

“I ask for nothing.”
“And you shall receive it in abundance”.

At a glance though it would seem that DVLA API at least gives enough information to determine status? From what I can gather then the ULEZ surcharge is pretty much just based on the Euro rating per vehicle type?

Whilst the TfL endpoint has been very useful as an authoritative source, as similar zones get thrown up around the country (each with their own set of rules it seems) it’d be great to have an open data source that allows you to determine status across multiple zones. I guess that DVLA source might at least provide most of what is required to do so to roll your own?

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Is it possible to get a reply from someone at TFL who is able to give a detailed explanation for why this is going away, what the licencing issues are and what API users can use as an alternative?

Many vehicles from the DVLA VES API do not have a EuroStatus, search for any 5 vehicles, chances are one or two will not have a EuroStatus.

It would be really helpful as API users to get some guidance here.

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Perhaps we can ping @jamesevans ?

As this is more of a product question than operational, I’ll tag in my colleague @jwithers

Thanks James. I’ve been exploring internally what our options could be, will send an update when I have one

Just to seek clarification on something, is it just public API access that is being lost in the short term? i.e. TfL’s own pages that use this data like Check your Vehicle will still be publicly accessible?

Hi @bfr

The licensing restrictions just cover our ability to provide the data openly, so we will still be able to provide the Check your Vehicle tool

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To everyone interested in this, I have explored what the options might be. It still looks as though we won’t be able to continue to provide the ULEZ compliance data openly anymore, due to licensing restrictions. However, we’ve decided to extend the time until the endpoint is decommissioned, this will now be on or after 30 April 2022. The data was recently refreshed, but it might not be possible to refresh the data again until the endpoint is decommissioned.

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This is a can of worms in open data terms. Has DVLA actually changed its licensing terms or has it emerged that something is out of line with existing licensing terms?

If they have changed licensing terms, the obvious reason is to make more money by selling data but this would seem to be in direct contradiction to the whole thrust of open data policy since it emerged blinking into the light. If it is to be challenged, though, it presumably has to be with the data owners, DVLA, or their organ grinder, the Department of Transport. I’m not a user of these data but perhaps someone who is should take it up with DVLA, either directly or through a FOI request for relevant records.

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Thank you for looking into this and extending the time until it’s decommissioned. The records the DVLA offer publicly aren’t complete enough to enable us to say if a vehicle is ULEZ compliance. Could you advise us of the data source TFL uses to decide ULEZ compliance? Many Thanks.

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Could someone from TFL explain what the licencing issue is please?

Is the issue with licencing terms from the DVLA, or are these issues with the way in which TFL licence the data?

I note that the following data is returned from the service:

{
  "vrm": "string",
  "type": "string",
  "make": "string",
  "model": "string",
  "colour": "string",
  "compliance": "NotAvailable"
}

If the issue is with the type,make,model,colour, can we simply remove these fields. All most users require is to know if a VRM is ULEZ compliant.

I would really appreciate some of the detail here as it feels like, as a user of the service, it is not clear what the problem is, nor what the options are for solving it.

I’m sure that it’s helpful for some users to clarify that the VRM belongs to the correct vehicle without a call to another API. Information on the exact issue would be helpful.

Yeah, i’m seeing similar things. The vast majority of vehicles i’ve tried (sampling vehicles between a couple and 10 years old) via the DVLA API return no Euro Status at all which makes it pretty useless as the backbone of a homegrown solution.

If @jwithers or anyone else at TfL could advise what sources they use (paid for or otherwise) to get the Euro Status data from then that’d be really helpful.

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Just as a FYI for those interested in the DVLA DES API, I reached out to the support team on Friday regarding the patchy returning of Euro statuses on vehicles. They said there was only any obligation (and even that had exceptions) for that data to be captured since 2018. They also stated there isn’t any other alternative source that they offer.

So as a data source for a homegrown solution it looks pretty dead in the water.

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