London’s ULEZ expands, with new zone 18 times larger than original perimeter

Policies would need to support bus and rail services

Because of the expansion, 3.8 million people now live and work within the ULEZ, with the area size representing one-quarter of Greater London.

It is hoped that the expansion will improve air quality and deliver progress against London’s 2030 net-zero target, by encouraging individuals to consider walking, cycling, taking public transport or car-sharing; and by encouraging businesses to electrify their fleets and improve efficiency.

On air quality, the existing ULEZ and the Low-Emission Zone (LEZ), which covers all of inner London and applies to heavy vehicles, have already delivered a 44% reduction in roadside NOx concentrations pre-pandemic.

“In central London, the ULEZ has already helped cut toxic roadside nitrogen dioxide pollution by nearly half and led to reductions that are five times greater than the national average,” said Mayor Sadiq Khan. “But pollution isn’t just a central London problem, which is why expanding the ULEZ today will benefit Londoners across the whole of the city and is a crucial step in London’s green recovery from this pandemic.”

The same emissions requirements from the original central London zone, which launched in 2019, will apply in areas covered by the new expansion. Petrol cars, vans and minibuses will need to comply with Euro 4 standards; diesel cars, vans and minibuses will need to comply with Euro 6 standards and mopeds and motorcycles will need to meet Euro 3 standards. Drivers of non-compliant vehicles – whether they are individual motorists or working as part of a business fleet – will be charged on a daily basis. The rate is £12.50 for cars. Failure to pay the daily rate will result in a fine. Charges apply 24/7, year-round, with the exception of Christmas Day.

Early indications show that 87% of vehicles travelling in the expanded inner London zone already meet the ULEZ standard, compared with just 39% before the introduction of the scheme. London City hall has, to date, sent more than one million letters to the owners of non-compliant vehicles living or working within the ULEZ, providing practical advice on how to comply.

One move taken by many small businesses, charities and low-income individuals has been to use a grant scheme for scrapping their old polluting vehicles. City Hall has revealed today (25 October) that some £61m in funding for this scheme has been provided, covering more than 12,000 vehicles. This makes the scheme the largest of its kind in the UK, despite the fact that it has not received funding support from central Government.

The Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) London head of policy Jordan Cummins said: “The extension of the ULEZ comes at a critical moment, as the UK hosts COP26, and the capital continues to set a world-leading example to global cities on emissions reduction. To achieve this, with business as a partner, it is also critical that we look to secure a cohesive London-wide set of clean air policies – supporting consumers and businesses to make the shift to cleaner vehicles and delivering the charging and refuelling infrastructure that is required to reach the capital’s net-zero ambitions.”

Other UK cities with low-emission or clean air zones – or plans to introduce them imminently – include Glasgow, Bath, Birmingham, Manchester, Oxford, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Sheffield. In many cases, implementation or expansion has been delayed due to Covid-19. Nonetheless, the expansion of such schemes is beginning to pose a moment of critical mass for businesses operating large fleets nationally.

Sarah George

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