Low Emission Zone goes live in London

The most polluting diesel-engined lorries will now be charged £200 per day to drive into Greater London after the launch of the city's Low Emission Zone on Monday.

All lorries weighing more than 12 tonnes must now meet Euro III emissions standards to avoid the charge, and failure to pay will result in a £1,000 penalty.

Lorries weighing between 3.5 and 12 tonnes, along with buses and coaches, will be included from July 7.

The Low Emission Zone, which is the first in the UK, aims to reduce air pollution in the capital and – unlike the congestion charge – it will be in force 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said: “Thousands of Londoners suffer ill-health from pollution released by traffic fumes and seven out of ten Londoners are concerned about the impact of air pollution.

“This is why we are launching the UK’s first Low Emission Zone.”

Darren Johnson, a Green Party member of the London Assembly, welcomed the launch of the zone, but said more needed to be done to reduce air pollution in the capital.

He said: “We also need traffic reduction and hybrid engines for all London buses and taxis. The Government can’t be trusted to look after the health of Londoners, which is why we need the London Mayor to take independent action.”

Cameras will be used to take the registration numbers of large vehicles and check them against the DVLA database.

Non-GB vehicles have to be registered with Transport for London to avoid a penalty charge.

The scheme is set to be extended in October 2010 to cover smaller diesel-engined vehicles, and emissions standards will be tightened to Euro IV from January 2012.

On the first day of the scheme, 22,000 vehicles over 12 tonnes entered the zone, with 1,600 failing to meet the standards.

Fleet managers have been given an extra 28 days to retrofit or replace vehicles before the charges kick in.

Fears remain that it may be difficult to enforce the charges for non-compliant vehicles from outside the UK were dismissed by Transport for London, with a spokesman telling edie that, due to the distances covered by these vehicles, fleets were regularly replaced and the vast majority were compliant with the Euro III standard.

He did concede that collection rates were likely to be lower for the few which failed to meet standards, citing the collection rates for the congestion charge of 70% for British registered vehicles compared with 40% for overseas drivers.

Kate Martin

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