london air pollution ulez zone

London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone expands 18-fold to cut air pollution

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London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which sees drivers of polluting vehicles charged additional fees, has been significantly expanded starting from today.

The new ‘inner London’ zone is 18 times the size of the current central London zone and is designed to tackle air pollution in some of London’s most densely populated areas.

The £12.50 daily charge is on top of the £15 Congestion Charge, which is designed to lower overall traffic in central London and mostly covers diesel cars that are more than six years old and petrol cars that are more than 15 years old.

Around 87 per cent of vehicles currently travelling in the zone already meet ULEZ standards and will therefore be exempt from the new charge, up from 39 per cent in February 2017 when plans for expansion were first announced.

ULEZ has now been expanded from central London, covering the same area as the Congestion Charge, up to - but not including - the North Circular and South Circular Roads. The scheme will operate 24 hours a day, every day of the year except Christmas Day.

Around 3.8 million people live within the new zone, which measures 380km squared and covers one quarter of London. It is the largest zone of its kind in Europe.

As well as air pollution, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the charge would also help to tackle the climate emergency and put London on the path to be a net zero carbon city by 2030.

The poorest Londoners, and Londoners from ethnic minority backgrounds, were typically most likely to be the worst affected by poor air quality.

Six months after ULEZ was first introduced in April 2019, roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution was shown to have reduced by 36 per cent when compared to February 2017.

Khan has made £61m in funding available for grants for small businesses, charities operating minibuses and low-income and disabled Londoners to help them scrap their older, more polluting vehicles.

“This is a landmark day for our city,” Khan said. “I pledged to be the greenest Mayor London’s ever had and I am incredibly proud that expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone today will clean up London’s toxic air pollution and help tackle the global climate emergency by reducing emissions.

“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. 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.

“This is also about social justice. We know pollution hits the poorest Londoners - who are least likely to own a car - the hardest, which is why I’m doing everything I can to improve air quality and protect the health of all Londoners. I will not stand by while pollution leads to 4,000 Londoners dying early each year and our children growing up with stunted lungs. The expanded ULEZ is a vital step towards helping combat London’s illegal air and reducing the emissions that are harming our planet.”

Some London-based small businesses have expressed concern about the impact of the charges. Speaking to the PA news agency, Michael Lloyd, managing director of LTC Scaffolding, said his firm has invested £300,000 to upgrade some of its fleet to meet the higher standards, but still expects to rack up around £2,500 a week in charges for its non-compliant vehicles.

“Most small businesses” cannot afford that expense, he said, adding that while it was “a good idea” in practice, it should have been postponed for at least six months in order to give some extra time for businesses still recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

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