Boris Johnson targets diesel drivers to cut air pollution

The Mayor of London will tonight (29 July) unveil details of a new 'air quality manifesto' which will include plans to charge diesel car users an additional £10 to drive into the centre of the capital.

Giving a keynote speech at Mansion House, Boris Johnson will also confirm plans to create the world’s first Ultra Low-Emission Zone (ULEZ); encouraging all vehicles in central London to be ultra-low or zero emissions from 2020.

“Improving London’s air quality is an urgent challenge,” Johnson will say. “It affects the health and well-being of all Londoners, and it simply cannot be put on hold. Here at City Hall we are doing everything in our power to address it.

“At the heart of this are my plans for the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London from 2020. This will be a game-changer, but with just a little more energy, ambition and action from Westminster and from Brussels, London can meet the EU limits for NO2 by 2020. It is possible, and together we can make it happen.”

The £10 charge will be in additional to the congestion charge, which is currently priced at £11.50. It is expected to come into force in 2020 and will apply to drivers of diesel vehicles along with and petrol cars registered before 2006. Diesel vehicles that meet the Euro 6 emissions standard will be exempt from the charge.

Traffic pollution

Johnson’s announcement comes just days after the London Assembly Environment Committee’s ‘report card’ awarded the Mayor a 4/10 on his progress to reduce London’s carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency.

Earlier this month, London was criticised for high levels of traffic pollution, with harmful nitrogen dioxide levels expected to significantly exceeded EU limits until 2030. Oxford Street was singled out for having some of the worst annual average levels of NO2 pollution in the world – findings which Johnson later claimed were ‘B*ll*cks: ludicrous urban myth’ on Twitter.


Johnson will address this further in tonight’s speech, claiming the reports are ‘inaccurate’ and ‘misleading’. Pollution levels in London are lower than for many other world cities such as Stuttgart, Paris, Munich, Rome and Milan, he will say.

The Mayor will say he is ‘determined’ to further transform London’s vehicle fleets; working with the Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles to deliver 200,000 ultra-low emission cars, 7,000 zero emission capable taxis, 11,500 ultra-low emission private hire vehicles, an additional 1,600 zero emission capable buses and up to 350 electric vehicles in other public fleets.

Government investment

By 2020, London will have 35 rapid charging hubs with 350 rapid charge points and an inductive charging network. Johnson will also announce the retrofit of a further 400 of TfL’s older buses as well as plans to expand the electric bus fleet by a minimum of 300.

Johnson will conclude by calling on the Government to ‘step up to the plate’ by putting air quality at the heart of health, energy and climate change policies, with incentives to promote cleaner vehicles and cash to tackle hotspots and purchase cleaner vehicles.

Commenting on the manifesto, Diana Raine, European business manager for Hydrogen Energy Systems at Air Products – the supplier of hydrogen infrastructure in the UK – said: “This manifesto will be key in encouraging the use of cleaner, greener fuels to reduce air pollution and protect the nation’s health.

“However, for the transition from current transport technology to low-emission alternatives such as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to become a reality, the Government must commit to further investment – not only for the vehicles themselves, but for the fuelling infrastructure that will support their rollout.”

Luke Nicholls

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