The most-polluting vehicles will have to pay a daily charge to drive within central London (£12.50 for cars, vans and motorbikes; £100 for buses, coaches and HGVs). The fare will replace the £10 T-Charge, which will start in October this year.

Khan said: “The air in London is lethal and I will not stand by and do nothing. Today I’m announcing bold proposals which are critically needed to safeguard Londoners from our air quality health crisis.

“I am introducing a new T-Charge this October and subject to consultation, I want to introduce the Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London in April 2019. This alone will mean the capital has the toughest emission standard of any world city.”

Progressive timescale

Arriving in central London on 8 April 2019, the charge will be expanded across Greater London for heavy diesel vehicles in 2020, and up to the North and South Circular roads for cars and vans in 2021. Khan said these timescales would provide affected businesses with sufficient time to take the necessary steps to prepare for the new standards.

The central London ULEZ is expected to result in nearly a 50% reduction in road transport NOx emissions in 2020.  Each scheme will be subject to consultation with the Mayor keen to hear the views of businesses in the capital.

The announcement reflects Sadiq Khan’s commitment to tackle London’s toxic air levels, which saw the capital breach its annual legal limit within five days of 2017. In recent months, the Mayor has launched a real-world air quality tracker and unveiled the world’s first hydrogen double-decker.

Poor air quality is estimated to cause 10,000 premature deaths in the capital every year, and around 40,000 early deaths across the UK. Khan is now urging the Government to match his ambition to clean up air pollution on a national level.

He said: “Ministers need to deliver a national vehicle scrappage fund, reform fiscal incentives like vehicle excise duty and pass a powerful new Clean Air Act to end the toxic smog in London once and for all.”

Mixed reaction

The UK’s continuous struggle to comply with the EU Air Quality Directive has already led to numerous court battles, with the Government last year defeated by ClientEarth in a High Court case over the failure of ministers to tackle illegal air quality levels across the country. Today’s announcement has been hailed by ClientEarth as a “significant move” in tackling the capital’s toxic air quality levels.

“Bringing the Ultra Low Emission Zone forward is absolutely essential if we are to protect people’s health,” ClientEarth lawyer Anna Heslop said. “But all options need to be on the table including a London wide ULEZ for all vehicles to protect the health of all Londoners. The High Court made it crystal clear that the Government and therefore the Mayor must do everything in their power to clean up London’s air as soon as possible.”

But Khan’s pledge has not been met with universal approval. London Assembly member Shaun Bailey insists that London’s police, fire brigade and ambulance services will fail to meet earlier deadlines to comply with the ULEZ, as financial pressures hinder the uptake of low-emission vehicles in fleets.

Bailey said: “The Mayor has failed to listen to heavy opposition to this earlier implementation – most notably from London’s emergency services. Our police, fire and ambulance services will have to pay millions of pounds to replace their fleets with cleaner vehicles early or be charged heavy daily rates for saving people’s lives. They should be exempted from this earlier deadline.

“The Mayor has also ignored warnings about extending the zone to lesser polluted areas of London. Although he has pushed back the extension to 2021, millions of Londoners face paying exorbitant charges for driving in areas where air pollution is below legal limits. London’s air needs to be improved but taxing our emergency services and Londoners in greener parts of the city does not achieve that.”

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie