Emergency services struggling with ULEZ compliance

London's police, fire brigade and ambulance services will fail to meet earlier deadlines to comply with proposed Ultra Low Emissions Zones (ULEZ), as financial pressures hinder the uptake of low-emission vehicles in fleets.

Information obtained by the London Assembly has revealed that all three of London’s emergency services have concerns over their ability to meet the mooted 2019 date for the widening of ULEZ.

Through a freedom of information (FOI) request on responses to a ULEZ consultation, London Assembly found that the Metropolitan Police will likely have 800 non-compliant vehicles facing daily £12.50 charges by 2020, while London Fire Brigade could be subjected to annual costs of £250,000 due to non-compliance.

London Assembly member Shaun Bailey, who issued the FOI, said: “It seems unbelievable that our emergency services are not exempt from this pollution tax given their whole reason for driving in London is to save lives.

“Of course, it makes sense that over time they should introduce more modern vehicles to their fleet but the financial pressures the early deadline is placing on their already tight budgets could put at risk the ability to do their jobs.”

London Assembly has called on Mayor Sadiq Khan to give the services immediate exemption from ULEZ compliance until funding streams are uncovered that allow fleets to be decarbonised. Currently, London Ambulance will have to replace 828 diesel and 27 petrol vehicles before its fleet is ULEZ compliant.

Khan has been establishing his vision for a cleaner London in recent months, which includes a more ambitious ULEZ in central London in 2019 – a year ahead of schedule – and the introduction of a capital-wide emissions surcharge, known as the T-charge, for older, polluting vehicles.

Under these plans, the Metropolitan Police would need to replace 82% of its entire fleet to avoid charges and costs. Even if a replacement programme was introduced, financial restraints mean that replacements couldn’t be introduced until 2020.

The Fire Brigade revealed it would have more than 50 non-compliant vehicles operating within ULEZ daily, which could generate annual costs of £250,000. London Ambulance also revealed that it would have to modify its replacement programme if the deadline is brought forward.

Emergency enablers

Khan has confirmed plans to roll out the first batch of low-emission bus zones along the capital’s most polluted transport routes. In fact, the Mayor wants Transport for London (TfL) to lead by example in tackling fleet emissions. One such example is ensuring that all buses operating in the central ULEZ comply by 2019, meaning each of the 3,100 double-deck buses operating in the zone will be Euro VI hybrid.

TfL has also offered increased availability of low-emission vans and lorries in an effort to reduce the emissions of the capital’s freight and fleet operators. However, little advice or support has been offered to the emergency services, which have asked the Mayor for concessions on its non-compliant vehicles.

Matt Mace

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